Bibio, aka Stephen Wilkinson, the ever progressive and genre-hopping artist from England’s West Midlands returns after 2009’s delightfully received Ambivalence Avenue. Bibio’s style consists of being able to saunter between earthy folk songs and hip-hop/electronica with incredible ease.
This particular album marks an important step in Bibio’s musical evolution. It’s interesting to witness his progression from a sound that was folk at its core with just a thin layer of electronica. Now the electronic elements have taken over, leaving all the folk aspects cowering in the woods like a small rebel faction. Well, perhaps not cowering. There is the odd covert operative working within the city walls attempting to folk everything up from the inside but their efforts are curbed by an overwhelming presence of electronic instruments.
Mind Bokeh really demonstrates Wilkinson’s new found confidence in his own singing voice. All but two of the tracks on this album feature it. While the vocals on previous works are an integral part of Bibio’s unique sound they aren’t quite as prominent as they are on this record. Wilkinson’s usually timid voice emerges from the background on this album and takes centre stage with a new found mettle.
After first listening to this album you’ll probably find yourself trotting back to the opening track ‘Excuses’ and giving it another cheeky go. And why not? It’s a damn good track, one that will probably be on most peoples lips when discussing Mind Bokeh. This album is a grower though and each track tends to takes on a new form with every listen. So, while a cursory glance may see you placing something like ‘Excuses’ at the top of the pile every re-listen should unveil a new favourite track. ‘Artists’ Valley’ in particular seems to materialise as if from nowhere after a few listens and is probably one the strongest tracks on the album. It’s simple, intelligent but tranquil enough that you could be forgiven for losing it in the slew of formidable songs.
Unfortunately there are one or two hiccups. ‘Take Your Shirt Off’ is a veritable fly in the ointment of Mind Bokeh. The lacklustre lyrics and slapdash attempt at a vaguely rocky sound make for an altogether weak track that leaves a sour taste.
Despite the odd bump, Mind Bokeh is an impressive album and one that shows the adaptability of Bibio’s talents. He has evolved a great deal from his earlier finger picking days into a genre mixing maven. As for attempting to categorise Bibio, the verdict is still out on what genre this is. Many would argue that it’s some kind of pop/electronica medley while others will be tempted to label it as folktronic. If you want a simple explanation, this is spring cleaning music.