Since his 2005 debut Bibio’s music has been shaped by a sense of looking back to push forward. Despite revelling in the warm glow of nostalgia – whether for 60s folk or 80s funk – he’s avoided being crippled by history and instead used it as the foundations to build something new. The A/V installation come launch of his new album ‘Phantom Brickworks‘ in East London shows that now his work has moved onto engaging with the actual movement of time itself.
The setting is the Boiler House of the Old Truman Brewery, on Shoreditch’s Brick Lane. The building, which has roots dating back to the seventeenth century, was closed down in the late 1980s before being turned into a “a hive of creative businesses as well as exclusively independent shops, galleries, markets, bars and restaurants” around 20 years ago. Put simply, it’s a venue which connects East London’s past to its present.
For the launch, three massive screens in the dark, bare boiler room play videos shot by Bibio as tracks from Phantom Brickworks ooze out through the space’s stoney echoes – amplifying the blissful murk that blankets the album. The videos vary from crisp, high definition shots of wet autumnal lanes and crumbling houses, to grainy black and white graveyards. The constant throughout is a sense of frozen time. Bibio’s films have captured moments of almost zero movement, the shifting position of the camera and odd twitch of a tree in the breeze the only hint that these aren’t photographs.
"Bibio’s films have captured moments of almost zero movement, the shifting position of the camera and odd twitch of a tree in the breeze the only hint that these aren’t photographs."
A common approach to listening to ‘ambient’ music, whether live or on record, is to close your eyes and succumb to the sound. The A/V installation to launch Phantom Brickworks pushes for the opposite, the visuals and the unique setting demand the listener to absorb the music along with a very specific environmental context.
An obvious point of comparison for Bibio’s new music is William Basinski, yet even though there are certain textual similarities the two artists convey very different effects. One of the fascinating contradictions of William Basinki’s ‘Disintegration Loops‘ is that despite their near stationary BPMs and limited harmonic variation, they emphasise the movement of time.
As the tapes degrade and sheer, the relentless movement and change of the world is amplified in the microscopic moments that will never be repeated. Bibio seems to do the opposite, the videos accompanying the launch and the new album itself seeming to strive to exaggerate the connectivity of past, present and future.
Just as the brickwork of the Old Truman Brewery remains largely unchanged, linking the cocktail bars it now houses to the brewers who worked there in its Victorian heyday, Bibio’s own Phantom Brickworks reinforces the bridges connecting then and now.
This A/V was presented as part of the We Are Robots festival.