Bibio's Stephen Wilkinson had a banner year in 2009. He rang it in with Vignetting the Compost, an album that seemed to beckon spring with its delicate, pastoral electronics, then took his music several steps forward with that summer's Ambivalence Avenue, which was as dazzling as it was eclectic. Wilkinson closed the year with The Apple and the Tooth's hybrid of new songs and remixes by similarly wide-ranging artists who found plenty of ways to push Ambivalence Avenue's tracks in even more far-flung directions. Some remixers hone in on the album's anything-goes feel: Clark, whose fearless sound clashes feel like a major influence on Bibio, takes the already hyperactive "S'vive" to another level of brilliant fragmentation, using sudden stops and starts, layers of dreamy analog synth, and crashing electronic noise to rework the song so drastically it feels like a suite of mini-remixes. Letherette's transformation of "Lover's Carvings" from a folky guitar vignette into a soulful, bottom-heavy slow jam is even more radical, even if it's not as shocking. Other artists tap into Ambivalence Avenue's reveries. Lone doesn't tamper much with the hippie bliss of "All the Flowers," only adding filtered electronics and crunchier beats to its chiming harmonies, while the Gentleman Losers' take on "Haikuesque" somehow makes the song even more nostalgic. Bibio himself contributes a remix as well, the lovely, chamber pop-ified "The Palm of Your Wave," but The Apple and the Tooth's new tracks are more interesting. Ambivalence Avenue's mix of sunny folk-pop and challenging beats and textures continues on the title track and "Rotten Rudd," even if neither is quite as jaw-dropping as the songs from that album. "Bones and Skulls," however, is a standout that proves Wilkinson's songwriting is growing ever more effortlessly graceful as it segues from a breezy melody into a moodier piano and guitar coda. Even if The Apple and the Tooth is more a summation of where Bibio was in 2009 than another bold step forward, it's still a very enjoyable look back on his artistic growth that year.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares