Electronic music has come a long way; no longer should an “electronic” artist or album be confined to the late night clubs’ dance floors or a seedy German rave. The way Daft Punk or LCD Soundsystem brought readily accessible beats to mainstream audiences could waggishly be compared to Ray Charles and his inundation of church music into popular songs. And now, groups like Hot Chip and Dan Deacon are finding creative ways of making electronic music exciting for more than just people who like to move their limbs to a jangly beat.
Add Bibio to that list as well. The British musical producer, also known as Stephen Wilkinson, has made a nice career thus far of blending experimental electronic sounds with folk, pop and ambient noises. It’s caught the attention of a couple different advertisers as well as many indie music fans hungry for something different.
The new album, Ambivalence Avenue, is more of the same for Bibio. The album opens with the title track and looping guitars, chunky beats and a light, ’70’s-style chorus complete with flute and string-like synths. Sonically, it’s as rich as anything Bibio has done, even mixing in some ambient street sounds at the beginning and middle of the song for good measure. The record seems rarely content to stand still, however, and this gives way for a funky, falsetto’d grove on “Jealous of Roses”. From there, the album manages to sound like everything from Moby to Adult Swim bumps, both upbeat (“Fire Ant”) and mellow (“Sugarette”, “S’vive”). A couple pleasant surprises here and there recall lo-fi ’60’s pop such as “Lovers’ Carvings” and “Abrasion”.
The album continues throughout with this musical sampler-platter effect, and for the most part it’s pleasant. What is lacking, though, is a sense of purpose. Each track is pretty in its own respect, but it fails to support to record as a whole. Really what this boils down to is Wilkinson having fun with all sorts of different musical gimmicks and forgetting he’s making an album and not just singles.
Still, there’s plenty to love throughout, and it should be enjoyed by more than just those looking for a vanguardian jaunt into musical obscurities. Bibio is clearly a man who enjoys the process of creating, as evidenced by the varied playlist of tracks he’s assembled. And while it probably won’t be a record for the ages, it certainly will be a record for a nice summer afternoon walk or a cozy evening at home.