Avant-garde, idiosyncratic, uplifting, and at some points, disheartening. These would be the words that best depict Bibio’s outlandish take on music, heavily influenced and slightly emulatory of Boards of Canada. Though he is not by any means an artist to spearhead an entirely new movement, he constructs his own identity extremely well.
Steve Wilkinson’s 2009 release, Ambivalence Avenue, is his first with the reputable Warp Records. With this comes slight alteration of his music, abandoning his previous style, which may have been considered tedious by some, and taking a new, experimental approach. With no lack of articulating ability, he ventures through a number of genres and generations of music, creating something unconventional and unexpected in a deeply digitally woven, yet nostalgia-spawning way.
The album starts off with the title track, which serves a crucial role of introducing us to many of the ambient, euphoric, and seemingly re-occurring sounds this album has to offer. Those sounds celestially contrast with others that sport electronic basslines, through exceptional transitions. The title track leads on to “Jealous of Roses,” a track with a beautiful 70’s feel to it, and a coalesce of funky samples. The more gritty, yet equally satisfying tracks, like “Fire Ant” and “Sugarette,” could easily be possible Madlib or Dilla cuts. “Haikuesque (When She Laughs)” sports a bit of low-fidelity folk. “Lover’s Carvings” is host to an uplifting atmosphere, although the first minute or so was, in my opinion, a little dull. Soulful is “Abrasion” and even more so, “The Palm of Your Wave,” which both muster feelings of great despair. “S’vive” brings a more choppy sound, and “Cry! Baby!” is another especially saddening and touching song. The album comes to fitting close with the eccentric “Dwrcan.”
In conclusion, from harsh, 8-bit moments to halcyon, soothing tunes, Ambivalence Avenue is a work of art. It’s most definitely worth a listen (or ten.) Although there wasn’t a track that I didn’t enjoy, stand-outs on the album were Jealous of Roses, Fire Ant, and Haikuesque.