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A Mineral Love

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Album Review

Bibio's Stephen Wilkinson is no stranger to revisiting and updating the past on his albums, whether it's the history of music in general or just his own. On Silver Wilkinson, he returned to the folktronic idylls of the Vignetting the Compost era with a newfound purpose; on A Mineral Love, he dissects the fusion of 21st century electronic music and '70s and '80s R&B, funk, and pop that made Ambivalence Avenue so compelling. The warmth of the bubbling keyboards and easy grooves on songs like the summery "Town & Country" suggest that Wilkinson spent hours crate-digging for the perfect samples. However, he actually created each and every sound in the studio, a traditional approach that reflects — and enhances — that this is one of Bibio's most song-oriented albums. "Raxiera" draws from early-'70s soft rock so breezily and convincingly that it feels like it should be on a volume of AM Gold, while the title track and "Light Up the Sky" are equally indebted to old-school R&B and its 2010s' indie version. Wilkinson's era- and genre-mashing might be more restrained here than on Ambivalence Avenue, but he can't help but allow himself indulgences like the electro drums on "Feeling," the only hint that its blue-eyed soul is from 2016 instead of 1976. Similarly, though songs "C’est La Vie" revisit Bibio's time-tested mix of electronic beats and eloquent guitar melodies with winning results, several of A Mineral Love's best moments use vintage sounds he hasn't explored so thoroughly. "With the Thought of Us" is a love letter to '90s dance music, its gurgling keyboards, brass stabs, and loping beats sounding entirely unlike any of Wilkinson's previous music — and all the better because of that. The album's collaborations also provide several highlights, including Gotye's cameo on the soft-focus synth pop of "The Way You Talk" and "Gasoline & Mirrors," which nods to Wax Stag's sleek sound while remaining unmistakably Bibio. Meanwhile, "Why So Serious," which features Olivier St. Louis on vocals, is a pretty piece of '80s soul-pop reminiscent of Breakbot, another expert at ultra-stylish nostalgia. Though more than a few of Wilkinson's contemporaries are working in similar territory, A Mineral Love goes beyond mere re-creation. For Bibio, these are the good old days.

Biography

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...
Full Bio