Thursday, December 31, 2009

Albums of the Year, 2009 : 7 - Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue

"The title track weaves bouncing vocals through crisp guitar licks and bouncy flutes; "All the Flowers" is a fey folk gem; the dreamy "Haikuesque (When She Laughs)" is better indie-rock than many indie-rockers are making these days. Summery anthem "Lovers' Carvings" coasts on crunchy, gleaming riffs and upbeat woodblocks, and the autumnal "The Palm of Your Wave" is simply haunting. It's hard to believe that these inspired, moving vocal performances are coming from the same guy who recorded moaning ambiguities like "Mr. & Mrs. Compost". Occasionally, you'll hear a little tremble in the strings and go, "Oh right, this is Bibio," but mostly, detuned atmosphere has been replaced by silky drive.

While these songs are a quantum leap for Bibio, they still reasonably project from the foundation he's laid. But there's no accounting for the remainder of the album, which finds him paddling the uncharted waters of hip-hop, techno, and points outlying. "Jealous of Roses" sets lustrous funk riffs dancing between the stereo channels as Bibio belts out a surprisingly effective Sly-Stone-in-falsetto impersonation. "Fire Ant" spikes the loping soul of J Dilla with the stroboscopic vocal morsels of the Field; "Sugarette" wheezes and fumes like a Flying Lotus contraption. The music feels both spontaneous and precise, winding in complex syncopation around the one-beat, with subtle filter and tempo tweaks, and careful juxtapositions of texture (see the arid, throttled voices scraping against the sopping-wet chimes of "S'vive"). Many songs taper off into ambient passages that have actual gravity, gluing the far-flung genres together. It's the kind of seamless variety, heady but visceral, that few electronic musicians who aren't Four Tet have achieved."

- Brian Howe, Pitchfork

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