Split Personality: A Review of Bibio’s “Ambivalence Avenue”

It’s a rarity to be sure when you say that a song eviscerates a sensibility akin to that of a scratched 1970’s soul record skipping on a dusty secondhand gramophone and mean it as a compliment, yet that is what could be said of Bibio’s “Fire Ant,” a track off of Brit producer Bibio’s latest, Ambivalence Avenue. Bibio, aka Stephen Wilkinson, offers this odd muddling of folk, funk, cirrus-wispy indie rock, and pedestrian sound sampling electro only five months after Vignetting the Compost, however it in no way appears a rushed endeavor. Rather, it seems a much further developed collection of musical vignettes, or perhaps, musical fairy tales transplanted into a grungy, post-apocalyptic dystopian modernity.

Just take “Cry ! Baby !” which floats on eerily shrill alien sound lacrimations alongside steady jazz drum beats with the occasional tremble of idllyic flute and winds down with a softly shrinking pitter-patter that somehow calls to mind visions of Bruno Bozzetto’s animated opera Allegro Non Troppo. Meanwhile “Dwrcan” seems a choppier and more dissonant bit of “Cry ! Baby !” ersatz. The experience of listening to the two tracks in succession is in fact rather akin to rolling down a grassy hill in fresh rain onto a sandy abandoned 99 cent store gravel lot.

Indeed though the nadirs of Ambivalence Avenue are fodder for migraines, the pinnacles are ethereal highs. “S’Vive” floats lovely music box tinkling over wistful electro-hiphop, while “Lovers Carving” meanders through folk, shaker-driven pop, and jam with fluid deftness. These songs manage to assimilate various musical styles without the collage-like cut-and-paste sensibility which has been the pitfall of many other genre-crossers. Then Bibio manages to almost create his own genre in “The Palm of Your Wave,” an uncanny, wistful song which might be sung by a power drill laying abandoned in a wasteland.

Ultimately, Ambivalence Avenue is not so much ambivalently good as it is an album smattered with both fascinatingly enigmatic gems and cacophonous musical sediment. It is an album of outliers that belies mediocrity, genre, and simplicity, undulating in quality and style throughout its schizoid composition.

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About TracyOneill Tracy is a freelance writer based out of Brooklyn obsessed with nutritional supplements, mediocre music, audacious (to put it politely) apparel, literary giants, and perfecting the fine art of the Sunday Bloody Mary.

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