As Bibio, producer/multi-instrumentalist Stephen Wilkinson combines electronic, folk, hip-hop, and rock music with an adventurous outlook and atmospheric production values. On early albums such as 2006's Hand Cranked, he combined acoustic guitars, analog synths, and field recordings into dreamy collages that called to mind half-remembered times spent in the great outdoors. Gradually, Bibio's music became more structured and diverse, with albums like 2009's breakthrough Ambivalence Avenue reflecting influences as varied as J Dilla, Marcos Valle, and theme songs from '70s TV shows. Wilkinson continued to innovate and explore different sides of his music in the 2010s with accomplished results on 2017's ambient excursion Phantom Brickworks and 2019's British folk-inspired Ribbons.
Born and raised in England's Black Country (aka the West Midlands), Wilkinson listened to the likes of Queen and Pink Floyd while in the car with his dad, then attempted to re-create what he'd heard at home on his Bontempi organ. A few years later, he fell in love with the rebellious sounds of Guns N' Roses and Iron Maiden, and eventually discovered electronic music when he got into skateboarding as a teen in the mid-'90s. Wilkinson studied sonic arts at London's Middlesex University and was first inspired by electronic acts such as Aphex Twin, Autechre, and Boards of Canada, but he became equally intrigued by mid-20th century British folk. He combined these styles in his own music, along with found sounds and field recordings, for a distinctive mix of organic and synthetic atmospheres. Boards of Canada's Marcus Eoin handed Wilkinson's demos to Mush Records, which released Bibio's 2004 debut album, Fi, and its more structured follow-up, Hand Cranked, in 2006. Wilkinson also released the limited-edition Sheila Sets Sail/Tribio on the Artist's Valley imprint, part of a collective Wilkinson has with producers Andy Harber and Richard Roberts. The Ovals and Emeralds EP, which featured organ instead of Bibio's usual acoustic guitars, arrived in 2008; Vignetting the Compost followed in 2009.
Later in 2009, Bibio moved to Warp for the eclectic Ambivalence Avenue, followed several months later by the release of a remix-heavy album, The Apple and the Tooth. For 2011's Mind Bokeh — named after the term for the blurry area in a photograph — Wilkinson went deeper into the meticulously sampled electro/hip-hop direction he began on Ambivalence Avenue. Bibio's sixth album, 2013's Silver Wilkinson, balanced the pastoral leanings of his earlier work with a more experimental electronic bent. The Green EP, which featured Silver Wilkinson's "Dye the Water Green" along with several older, previously unreleased tracks, arrived in early 2014. That year, Bibio's original score for the Jason Reitman film Men, Women & Children was also released. On 2016's A Mineral Love, Wilkinson expanded on his flair for nostalgia, taking inspiration from sources as diverse as TV show themes from the '70s and '80s, and '90s dance music. Though the album's sounds seemed sampled, A Mineral Love consisted of entirely new recordings by Wilkinson and collaborators including Gotye and Wax Stag. That year, Wilkinson expanded one of the album's tracks, "Why So Serious?," into the Serious EP, adding more collaborations with vocalist Olivier St. Louis. The following year's Beyond Serious EP reunited Bibio and St. Louis on tracks inspired by mid- to late-'90s French house music.
For 2017's full-length Phantom Brickworks, Wilkinson went in a very different direction, compiling a decade's worth of improvised ambient pieces that used atmosphere and texture to evoke real and imaginary places. The album also spawned 2018's EP Phantom Brickworks (IV & V). In 2019, Wilkinson celebrated Bibio's tenth year on Warp with his tenth full-length, Ribbons. His most acoustic-based music in some time, the album featured his mandolin and fiddle playing along with elements of vintage psychedelia and soul. ~ Heather Phares