Mind Bokeh – Bibio

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Multi-instrumentalist Stephen Wilkinson a.k.a. Bibio has spent several albums collecting the sonic hues of pastoral moments and filtering them through a prism of experimental and found sounds. Mind Bokeh blurs the lines even further between live instrumentation and the digital environment that can render melodies permanently off-kilter. The results are never harmonically grotesque, but they do require the full attention of the listener. “Excuses” takes on the form of a pop song, but is continuously poked and prodded by an arsenal of bleeps and glitches that want their way. Eventually the pop aesthetic gives in, surrendering to a crunchy beat pattern culled from the matrix. “Pretentious” is fractured R&B that melts before your ears during the second verse. As Wilkinson sings through the chord changes, the entire piece feels as if it’s sliding towards an uncomfortable realization before the song fades. “Anything New” snaps the listener back to wide-eyed possibilities as drum pad sequences are played with in stop-motion fashion, weaving their way through a maze of hand claps, finger snaps, and Technicolor scales.

While the chicken scratch guitar and rhythm box combination of “Light Sleep” may conjure up images of Shuggie Otis outtakes, the full throttle axe grind of “Take Off Your Shirt” might catch people by surprise. The thing that may infuriate longtime fans the most is that he pulls off this rock tune so well. “K Is For Kelson” lies somewhere between African highlife and Brazilian psych, featuring Wilkinson playing everything from electric bass and analog synthesizers to wine bottles and egg shakers. “More Excuses” continues the out loud introspection of the first song, lovingly housed within an acoustic arrangement that is reworked into a drum and bass inverse image of itself. “Saint Christopher” concludes the album with an airy up-tempo number that’s anchored by a heartbeat for a kick drum and guitar melodies that group hug your headphones.

Those familiar with Bibio are bound to debate where this album ranks within his discography, but initiated ears will be floored by Wilkinson’s vision. There is always one release every year that acts as a sonic effervescent tablet for pigeonholers worldwide and so far, Mind Bokeh is that album for 2011.