Silver Wilkinson, Bibio’s seventh album, is a career high point for the eclectic Black Country musician, bridging the best notes of his earthy folk to his woozy beat work, sometimes in the same song. The album’s lead single, “À tout à l’heure,” will stand as one of this year’s best, guided by Bibio’s distinct guitar playing and marked by a cheery chorus that’d sound just as natural sung by Vampire Weekend. Bibio probably wouldn’t appreciate having the early-’00s cliché of “folktronica” leveled his way, but he’s great at making it. Download his beatless FADER mix and read a short but thoughtful interview about where his new album fits in his discography, his process photographing the album’s cover and lamb chops.
Download: Bibio’s FADER Mix
With a few exceptions, Silver Wilkinson seems quieter and more acoustic-leaning than your last album (and in that way reminiscent of earlier stuff like Vignetting the Compost). What set you off on this direction? With Mind Bokeh I focussed more on an electronic pop vibe with synths and drum machines etc. As I was approaching the end of making that album, I was already thinking that I would pick up the guitar more and focus on a more melancholy live sound for the following album. Just because I like change and contrast, I did lots of acoustic guitar stuff before I signed to Warp, so Ambivalence Avenue was refreshing for me, putting beats and synths together with folky guitars. Personally I don’t feel this album is like Vignetting the Compost; it feels less folky and is darker. This album is way more electric sounding too, it’s not really an acoustic album, but it’s also not very electronic sounding. I think it’s more cinematic and panoramic.
Why don’t you ever release one album of guitar with singing, then another of your beat stuff? Will their ever be Bibio acoustic? I think contrasting styles compliment each other. I released fairly homogenous albums on Mush, like with Hand Cranked, which was mostly layered acoustic guitar loops. I’m not against making a homogenous album again but the truth is I’m always working in different styles—it keeps me interested, rather than just churning out one thing. I think having an eclectic album makes the album feel more like a journey, like a film, where you have intense bits and calm bits. Films jump between scenes and locations, I feel like I do a similar thing with my albums. Ambivalence Avenue was the start of this eclectic album thing for me and it was a success. Now I feel like it’s expected of me to surprise people by covering different styles.
How did you decide on the look for the album’s artwork, and what was your process designing it?I had the idea of using fishing flies quite a while ago. I tested out different ideas, all of them involving photographic experiments. When it comes to making images, photography is my preferred route, because it’s the area I know best. I’m getting more into staging shots rather than just taking shots of existing things. The cover of Mind Bokeh was made of just one photograph, despite looking like it might have been layered in Photoshop. I bought a load of flies to experiment with and tried out different things, like dangling them from threads in a 3D space and photographing them. I was aiming for a kind of texture or all-over pattern rather than a bold central image. A friend of mind had an overhead projector, which I borrowed before to create the artwork for the K is for Kelson EP. For this album I first tried casting shadows of the flies by placing them on the projector glass and taking photographs of the flies’ silhouettes casting on a large white screen. I moved the flies around and took more pictures. These shots were colorised and layered in Photoshop. These shots became the artwork for the 7-inch single “À tout à l’heure.” By this point, I still hadn’t come up with anything I was happy with for the album artwork so I then revisited the projector technique but added water. This time I crafted a glass-bottomed tray by using a sheet of glass from a picture frame and silicone sealing strips of plastic to make watertight sides. I filled this with water and floated different flies on the water surface. The same process follows where I photographed the shadows of the flies off a white screen. What was nice about this process is that the flies create distortions in the water surface tension which then creates distortions in the light projecting on the screen, so you end up with a more organic and textured look with the dappled water surface. Also, the projector itself can be defocussed, as well as the camera, so I played around with layering sharply focussed shots with defocussed shots. The projector is quite lo-fi, which gives the image some warmth and imperfection, especially considering I was using a high-end DSLR. Again the different images were colorised, initially by using different in-camera colour temperature values and then layering them in Photoshop. Different blending modes and layering the individual photos in different orders gave me lots of different colour variations. The front, back, insides etc. of the album artwork were made with the same four photographs but layered in different ways. What was also nice about this process is that it easily translated to moving images, so I repeated the projector & water process but took short video clips on my DSLR, stirring the water to move the flies and create light distortions with water ripples. The clips were then layered in a similar way to the photographs to create moving versions of the album artwork, this was then used for the album sampler video.
What food do you like to cook, and how do you make it? One of my favourite things to cook is lamb… lamb chops in particular. We get good lamb here, this is lamb country. I marinade the meat in various spices: first I toast some cumin seeds in a dry heavy bottomed frying pan. I then grind these in a stone pestle and mortar with coriander seeds. I then add these dry spices to the lamb in a bowl with some paprika and a touch of smoked paprika. I then grind some garlic cloves, olive oil, sea salt, chopped fresh green chillies, a touch of red wine, saffron, a touch of balsamic vinegar and lemon or lime juice in the same stone pestle and mortar until I’ve created a paste. Rub all of this loveliness into the lamb and leave in the fridge for the day (start doing this midday and then it should be nicely marinaded for the evening). I then either grill or cook the chops in a cast iron griddle pan. For cous cous, I use ground toasted cumin seeds, chopped dried apricots, toasted pine nuts and fresh chopped cilantro and some vegetable stock. I add the stock to the cous cous and when it’s ready stir in the other ingredients. I may also make falafel, griddled long sweet red peppers and fried haloumi. Garnish with more chopped cilantro and for a condiment, greek yoghurt with fresh mint goes well. If the weather is fine, then barbecued lamb is even better. Ooh la la.
00:00 – William & Anna – Ben Modley
04:41 – I Hear A Rhapsody – Bill Evans & Jim Hall
09:02 – Bodas De Sangue – Marcos Valle
12:05 – Rue – Nathan Fake
14:43 – Devil Town – Daniel Johnston
15:25 – Vapor Trails – Grouper
21:10 – Corsair – Boards of Canada
23:13 – Butterfly – Scott Walker
24:32 – Wulf – Bibio
25:46 – Bahçede Hanımeli – Baris Manço
26:20 – dlp 1.2 – William Basinski