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Vignetting the Compost

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Album Review

Like Stephen Wilkinson's other Bibio albums, Vignetting the Compost is as literal as it is charming. Blending and transforming parts and pieces so they become a whole is equally vital to making compost and making music, and this is especially true in Bibio's world, where folk meets electronica and recognizable instruments mesh with undefinable but oddly comforting textures and field recordings. Since Fi, Wilkinson's flair for creating hazy atmospheres has been the most striking thing about Bibio's music, and his gifts in that department are still strong. "Everglad Everglade" decorates the acoustic guitars that provide the album's backbone with flutes, birdsong, and chirping frogs, and "Over the Hills and Far Away"'s metallic percussion clatters like a rickety old bicycle. Vignetting the Compost also remains true to the vignette part of its title, with many tracks that are just long enough to make a gentle impression, like the brief flutter of "Dopplerton" and "Odd Paws"' shoegaze-tinged fog. The way Wilkinson can establish surroundings for his listeners with just a few carefully chosen sounds recalls Boards of Canada's outdoorsy electronic music (it's no surprise that BOC's Marcus Eoin was one of Wilkinson's early supporters), particularly on "The Clothesline and the Silver Birch"'s dense sonics and "Under the Pier"'s mix of warm, simple synth tones overlaid with static and cawing seagulls. However, Vignetting the Compost also unearths Bibio's more immediate and ambitious sides: vocals and impressive arrangements bloom among the soundscapes. Wilkinson's vocals on "Great are the Piths" and "Mr. and Mrs. Compost" have a conversational flow, adding a Grizzly Bear-esque feel to their delicate electronics and trippy folk. The more fleshed-out instrumentals also take listeners on a journey, especially in the way "Weekend Wildfire"'s chirping birds and brightly busy guitar melody cool down into vocodered murmurs and flutes that curl like wisps of smoke. "The Ephemeral Bluebell" is another standout, rolling on soft waves of backward guitars, strings, and flutes that echo and loop on themselves. It all culminates on the closing track, "The Garden Shelter," which feels, in the best possible way, like a musical compost heap of all the songs that came before it. Vignetting the Compost may be some of Bibio's most varied and immediate work, but this change in his music feels just as natural as the album's inspiration.


Born: West Midlands, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Bibio is the folk-meets-electronica project of self-taught producer/multi-instrumentalist Stephen Wilkinson, from England's Black Country (aka the West Midlands). As a student of sonic arts at London's Middlesex University, Wilkinson was first inspired by '90s electronic acts such as Aphex Twin, Autechre, and especially Boards of Canada, but became equally intrigued by mid-20th century British folk. He combined these sounds in his own music, along with found sounds and field recordings, for a unique...
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