A gentle breeze in an English country glade.
For years now Bibio has taken the acoustic and twisted it into something more electronic. Over the last couple of releases, the electronic has dispersed into very subtle moments and ‘Sleep on the Wing’ is the culmination of this direction. The move towards folk and acoustic guitar results in Bibio’s most delicate and roots filled record to date. This is the album for a country stroll.
Across the ten tracks, the acoustic guitar, the fiddle and the electric piano take centre stage along with some lovely field recordings of bird song. It really is a gentle experience. Bibio starts off with the title track to lull you into this mood. His voice is whispy and smudged like chalk so you never hear his vocals at their full potency. Instead, the hazy voice merges into the unfurling drones of guitar, reeds, fiddles and soft bass. Bibio has done this style before but often this is his quiet moment. Here – it is his loudest. The vintage vinyl style production helps convey a warm and rustic olde shoppe tone and this makes the album stand out.
Where the album hits its stride is when Bibio uses complex rhythms and textures to perfection. ‘Oakmoss’, ‘A Couple Swim’ and ‘The Milky Way of Ratlinghope’ are prime examples of warm, textured, swaying melodies that invite the repeat button. You can sink into the relaxed vibes and feel both funky and folksy at the same time. Evoking earlier work tracks like ‘Lightspout Hollow’ merge water streams and spiky electric guitar riffs that tinkle like music boxes.
Then comes the pure folk ditties. ‘Miss Blennerhassett’ is an intricate folk jig that sparkles and bounces with joy. Elsewhere, ‘Awpockes’, ‘Otter Shadows’ and closing track ‘Watching Thus, The Heron Is All Pool’ simply noodle with patchwork riffs at various speeds. It is pretty but it is also a bit twee which may put a few people off. I also can’t help shake the feeling that Bibio’s previous works shined because of how expansive they were and that ‘Sleep on the Wing’ suffers a little from being more constrained. Again, as all music reviews are, this is a personal preference thing. The only track that uses much synth work is ‘Crocus’ and that is more of an ambient piece.
It is always a pleasure staying wherever Bibio has created for each of his albums. ‘Sleep on the Wing’ is easily the most relaxed and focused collection of music to date. Hidden complexities, warm musical hugs and a penchant for twee country vibes – your mileage may vary with its narrow focus but if it hits your summer vibes and you like your Instagram filters on ‘Sierra’ – this will be right up your country lane.
Recommended track: The Milky Way of Ratlinghope
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