Friday, December 5, 2008

Bibio - Fi / Hand Cranked

Steven Wilkenson’s Bibio project (a name that refers to a specific fishing lure his father used to use) masterfully occupies the space between free form folk and atmospheric electronica. A self taught musician, Wilkenson became interested in electronic music while in college when he was introduced to sound of Warp Records.

His production style relies in part on his own field recordings. He processes these ‘found sounds’ only slightly; layering them piece-meal to achieve a sort of low-fi, graininess. This makes for rich multi-faceted aural textures. The use of original recorded sound to create atmosphere, as opposed to “prepackaged” samples or synth patchs, gives his compositions a uniquely genuine feel. This adept soundscaping betrays his creative debt to the Boards of Canada.

Once the foundation has been set, he adds layers of acoustic guitar played by himself. Again, he does lots of experimenting with tone and texture-- his guitar can sound plucky or warbly; balmy or frosty; swimming in reverb or clean-- as the situation merits. Occasionally he crafts sparse rhythm parts and even the odd verse. This he does sparingly though, always allowing plenty of room for the beautiful ambiance of his guitar to breath.

Both of these records are similar but not necessarily interchangeable- Hand Cranked being somewhat of a logical extension of Fi. Both have widely ranging mood. Sounding at times celestial (Bewley In White: Fi) and at times wistful and lonely (Puddled in The Morning: Fi and Quantock: Hand Cranked). Some stand outs for me are Poplar Avenue(Fi) with it’s delicate array of revolving guitar parts; Wet Flakey Bark (Fi) a perfect soundtrack for a bleary ride through a deserted landscape in the mist of the morning’s early hours; and the aptly titled Overgrown which quietly winds Hand Cranked to conclusion.

Equally suitable as bedtime/background music or for a peaceful solitary stroll. Both albums are ace! And I’d be hard pressed to recommend one over the other.

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