Silver Wilkinson

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Bibio broke big with dazzlingly eclectic albums like Ambivalence Avenue and Mind Bokeh, which showed Stephen Wilkinson could bring a sharper edge and more dimensions to his music. However, the breezy folktronica of his earlier work had a lot to offer as well, and the way he incorporates it into Silver Wilkinson never feels like a retreat. Bringing a more streamlined approach to the unabashedly pretty sounds he explored on albums like Vignetting the Compost, the results aren't quite as bucolic as before; instead, the dainty acoustic guitars and hazy analog synths on "The First Daffodils" sound more like memories of being outside than actually communing with nature. This mix of directness and dreaminess results in some of Bibio's loveliest songs in some time, as on the sweetly tumbling single "A Tout L'Heure" and "Dye the Water Green," which emphasizes its unhurried beauty with a lengthy coda that's the musical equivalent of basking in a sunbeam. While the album's softly rounded edges and gentle peaks and valleys are familiar, the time Wilkinson spent perfecting his arrangements on Mind Bokeh and Ambivalence Avenue pushes his music forward in subtle but notable ways. "Sycamore Silhouetting" melds its acoustic and electronic elements with little of the Boards of Canada-like nostalgia he often uses; the gorgeous "You" brings a bit more delicacy to the finely chopped hip-hop he explored on his two previous albums, and "Raincoat"'s electric piano gives an early '70s singer/songwriter feel to the track's pastoral observations. But just when it seems that Bibio is going to spend all of Silver Wilkinson refining his previous sounds, he includes some tracks that are among his most experimental work. "Business Park" morphs from intense synth rock into gentle tones that sound like looped elevator music, but the most striking example is "Look at Orion!," which moves from his homespun, lo-fi roots into darker electro sounds that are driving without being explicitly beat-driven. Both of these tracks are somewhat jarring when juxtaposed with the gentler songs that came before, but they're still in keeping with the creative ways Wilkinson combines and separates the driving forces in his music throughout the album. Even with some of its more unpredictable moments, Silver Wilkinson offers a scenic route through Bibio's music that showcases its depth as well as its breadth.

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