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“I like contrast between my albums,” says Stephen Wilkinson aka Bibio. “When I finish an album, I crave doing something different for the next one.”
No more so is this made apparent with Wilkinson hitting a major milestone, releasing his 10th studio album. Over those ten albums he has gracefully glided between electronica, ambient, folk, pop, indie, funk, soul and just about any other sonic avenue he’s decided to turn down. After 2019’s Ribbons, an album he describes as “organic and woody sounding” with a “psych folk vibe”, for BIB10 he decided early on that he wanted to use more synths, drum machines, and electric guitars. “I wanted this album to sound more polished and slick,” he says. “But not ‘software perfect’. My influences for studio production mostly come from the 60s, 70s, and 80s where the craft was very different - getting a more polished sound, without ironing the humanity out of it, was part of the ethos.”
The result is an album heavy in grooves, be them looping guitar licks that lock into hypnotic swirls, buoyant funk beats, silky disco, texture-heavy soul explorations or that uniquely distinct tone that sounds like nobody other than Bibio. The tone here is rich, deep, resonant and conjures up a radiating warmth throughout.
This is apparent on tracks such as the opening ‘Off Goes the Light’ and first single, in which Wilkinson’s prominent vocals merge beautifully with the interlocking guitar melodies and immersive synth soundscapes. Even though, on the surface, this album at times feels like one of Wilkinson’s most outwardly electronic-sounding efforts, its roots are planted firmly to the guitar. “I became more obsessed than ever with guitars in the last few years, particularly vintage guitars,” he says. “This album is an ode to guitar in a very different way, with the guitars more like building blocks of a larger structure, and the subtle variations and differences with each guitar’s tone and colour make the album more nuanced. I don’t think of it as a guitar album per se, but I feel the foundation to all of the tracks is guitar.”
This underlying ethos has never been clearer than on his 10th album, a record that captures the essence of Bibio’s journey to date, with clear sonic characteristics and styles present and linkable to the past, while still exploring fresh ground and looking to the horizon. It’s a celebration record in many senses. “I think as ten is such a milestone album, I wanted it to be more of a party album,” he says. “It also has its dreamy and melancholy moments, but there’s a lot of fun and playfulness in this album. I hope people get up and dance to some of these songs.”