Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue Record Label: Warp Records
Release Date: June 22nd, 2009
Goddammit does Blogspot have sway.
Or rather their users. Albums just released or soon-to-be with "indie" potential are quickly finding themselves an eager, unpaid advertising agency. Well, advertising that offers the album for free to every internet fiend with WinRar and enough savvy to find their way through the endless array of hip titles and genre-specific collections. In any case, bands like Wavves, City Center, Real Estate, Crocodiles and more recently Bibio have received an extra boost from a little bit of blog-based file-sharing. Stephen Wilkinson, under the guise of Bibio, released his sixth album a week ago entitled Ambivalence Avenue. Good news: it is not quintessential 2009, i.e. lo-fi, meandering, overrated. Using "found sounds", talent behind the production board, mellow vocals, and gorgeous guitar lines (see "Haikuesque (When She Laughs)"), Bibio stands out, thankfully, among an underwhelming spew of misanthropic garage bands.
It's interesting that I find a widely electronic-based album any more than just decent. Not much has been done outside of the delay and reverb departments in terms of innovation in quite some time. Songs here like "Sugarette" are no exception, but Ambivalence Avenue makes it a point to show that it is willing to try anything once, or twice if it works. The aforementioned "Haikuesque...", which is all at once stunning and poignant and utterly perfect, is soon followed by "Lovers' Carvings". Both are in the very same vein -- that is: largely guitar based...and a tune that'll get stuck in your head for hours to come. A maraca, a Florida beach of a guitar line, and handclaps all ring the latter through with uncomparable charm and euphony. "S'Vive" comes in shortly thereafter, following the snoozer "Abrasion", and is a remarkable collage of electronic chimes, swelling flourishes, and arrangements of glitched vocals. In short, this is an album that deserves whatever sudden shove into the indie spotlight it has since received. It is spontanious without needing medication, disparate without resigning pre-established classification, and is passionate about the plausible -- not the pitiful. Somehow it doesn't fit between Bear vs. Shark and Big Black on my iTunes, but somehow it does.
If you were to record the spirit of some Dutch town, this is what I imagine it would sound like, this is how I could see that recording coming together. Closer "Dwrcan" is abrasive and almost beatless in its spitting and churning compostion, but it makes sense, it is distinctly human. This is an impression I get all along the way with Ambivalence Avenue. "When she laughs/The piano in the hall/Plays a quiet note," is a line I can fucking feel. Maybe it's the way it is vocalized, or maybe I'm at the point in my life where I can appreciate the sound of a girl, a love, laughing. Either way, I can rest assured that music can still affect me, can still twist my lungs in to a breathless clump of muscle and meaningless utterances. I know what an ambivalent avenue is! -- it's every goddamn street I've ever lived on: ants below my balcony saying one thing but thinking another, moving but motionless, unsure one minute of where they are and what they're doing...It's so easy to observe everything from above, and that's certainly a feeling I can hear expressed through Bibio's newest. We've all lived on this avenue, why not listen to a record dedicated to it?