Since Bibio’s first release on Mush Records in 2004, Stephen James Wilkinson has defined his career as an artist unafraid to push boundaries and experiment. From the wow and fluttered acoustic folk of “Hand Cranked“ to his 2009 Warp debut “Ambivalence Avenue“, where he throws pop, funk, hip hop, soul and psychedelia into the mix, Wilkinson’s back catalogue is as eclectic as they come.
Recently prone to immaculately produced ’80s smooth jams (The Serious EP) we must admit that it’s with a touch of trepidation that we fire up “Phantom Brickworks“, Bibio’s latest long player on Warp Records. However, true to form, Wilkinson surprises with an about turn focus on deeply pensive and emotive ambience.
Cloaked in autumnal mist, a beguiling series of aural mnemonics unfold – an instrumental set of improvisations centred on phrase repetition and the theme of human sensitivity to the atmosphere of places. Wilkinson explains : “A place can be charged with atmosphere because of what it has been through or what it has been…..places sometimes have things to say“.
In this context, Phantom Brickworks explores both past and future. Here we find a hauntology of place, a decay of physical objects and their memories, a musical psychogeography akin to explorations on labels such as Ghost Box, Clay Pipe Music and Folklore Tapes.
The results sit somewhere between Aphex Twin’s “Selected Ambient Works II“, hints of the beloved ‘Avril 14th‘ and the knackered ballroom ethos of The Caretaker. Dusty, reverb drenched pads lament. A piano plays itself in the corner of a dilapidated, empty church. Our minds display sepia tinged widescreen views of once busy places, now devoid of human activity.
And then we can’t help but see the future – nature slowly reclaiming what is hers, ivy curling with insouciance around human endeavour and sometime folly. A verdant colour time lapse spreading across our imagination…Whatever your take, this is an absolutely beautiful album. If you have not checked Bibio’s work for a while – now is the time to tuck right back in.
“Phantom Brickworks” is released Nov 3rd on Warp Records, order a copy from Bleep.
2. Phantom Brickworks
4. Phantom Brickworks II
5. Capel Celyn
6. Phantom Brickworks III
7. Ivy Charcoal
8. Branch Line
9. Capel Bethania