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Bibio | Ambivalence Avenue

Warp (2009)
By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  July 1, 2009
3.5 3.5 Stars


Since this new record by Wolverhampton's Stephen James Wilkinson (a/k/a Bibio) has done nothing but delight me, I'm going to honor the sentiments posted to his MySpace blog and spare him the f-word and all variants thereof — so no folk, freak folk, anti-/post-/neo-folk and God have mercy on us all no folktronica for fuck's sake. (Not that I would have used any of those anyway — promise.)

The main thing you'll be hearing about Ambivalence Avenue is that it's a street with no zoning. The man is all over the place — and it's rare that such a thing is to someone's credit. Further, Bibio's debut for Warp (he's a Mush alum) sounds like the last 10 years of Warp albumized: he noses ahead of Grizzly Bear's latest in terms of likability ("All the Flowers") as often as he lags slightly behind Prefuse 73 in terms of pure choppage chops ("Fire Ant").

His melodies send little smooches to Aphex Twin ("S'vive"); he's as cautiously classy as Plaid ("Dwrcan") but as recklessly clever as Squarepusher ("Sugarette"). If all this band threading seems to diminish his efforts, don't let it — just picture me grasping for bearings in this often task-derailingly pretty set of songs. Bibio's references may already be T-shirts in your bureau, and his dovetailing of crisp guitars, tangling melodies, smart electronic gestures, and resin-hit production values (all evident on the title track) isn't new by any means.

But if you can get out from under caring (that is, if you can locate the title lane), you'll feel as liberated as Bibio sounds here — an artist making a mixtape of himself. Folk yes.

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