Bibio: Ribbons (Warp) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, September 26th, 2020  




Apr 29, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Few artists are a musical chameleon in the way Stephen Wilkinson, aka Bibio, is. Throughout his career, the British musician has shifted his aural colorations to blend effortlessly into many different genres. Electronica, folk, indie rock, and ambient have all formed part of his blissful sound collages.

After the stark, ambient masterclass of 2017's Phantom Brickworks, these latest efforts bring the Bibio sound back into the sunlight, basking in a warm optimistic glow. Ribbons is the closest Bibio has come to the electro-folk excursions that announced his presences in the early 2000s.

But this is yet another career sidestep for the producer. Largely abandoning the electronic flourishes and hip-hop beats, Ribbons is a classic folk record in almost every way focusing on traditional instruments (guitar, flutes, fiddles, and mandolin) and a pastoral, countryside aesthetic.

Ribbons is the modern-day soundtrack to the Britain that Brexit-voters believe existed-one steeped in the idea of better times and nostalgic wonder when everything was free, easy, and lovely.

It echoes that whimsical folk of Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, and Pentangle, acts that are often overlooked today, meaning that these sounds are ripe for re-exploration.

What Bibio does well on Ribbons is repurpose these ideas into his own shimmering style. In fact, during the album's mid-section when electronica does infiltrate the trad-folk aesthetic nothing of that classic sense is lost. "Erdaydidder-Erdiddar" is simply elevated with big beats and vocal samples over the looped flute and guitar picking.

"Frankincense and Coal" is a strange, pitch-warped folk tale that leaves the British countryside for another realm. Elsewhere, the funky folk of "Old Graffiti" is a blissed-out, Doobie Brothers off-cut and closer "Under a Lone Ash" recalls the aforementioned Nick Drake's more sober, forlorn moments.

But to write Ribbons off as simple folk pastiche would be to sell it short. Wilkinson's yearning, wistful vocals, and skill with subtle aural flourishes (loops, pulses and crackles) give this album a unique charm that Bibio has perfected.

Ribbons is by no means a stand-out album from an illustrious career and it is not the most memorable of works, but it is a solid, enjoyable folk listen that is perfect for optimism in the sunshine, and, hell, we all need a bit of that right now. (

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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