Switched on – Bibio: Sleep On The Wing (Warp Records)

Reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Bibio has timed this release rather well. Sleep On The Wing is essentially a short album or a long EP, depending on your view – but it is an exploration of life in the wake of a loss, as well as a study of escaping the city to find peace in the countryside. In that sense Bibio – real name Stephen WIlkinson – is uncannily reflecting what many city commuters have found during the Coronavirus lockdown period, that an extended period in the country can shift the patterns of the mind considerably.

Sleep On The Wing is a deepening of Bibio’s folk connections too, using field recordings to bring the pure sounds of the countryside into the music, but also continuing his love of acoustic instruments. It has ten tracks and lasts just under half an hour.

What’s the music like?

Blissful. If you were indeed looking for music to help you escape the city, or as a distraction from the overwhelm brought on by electronic media in recent times, then this is definitely for you.

The music feels like a carefree celebration of the countryside, respectfully done but beautifully voiced. The pastoral language is soft but never too twee, and feels as green and pleasant as the beautiful cover from Joe Giacomet.

There is a slightly woozy feel about Bibio’s vocals, and when applied to the title track they give an appealing and slightly whimsical air. On Oakmoss they complement the rich acoustic guitar lines and ruminative violin,

The instrumentals are rather lovely. The Milky Way Over Ratlinghope spins a picturesque tale with the silvery tone of a viola and treble lines that include brief reveries for flute and wordless vocal. By contrast Awpockes is led by a softly picked guitar, while A Couple Swim follows the ripples of the water with the lazy lapping of its guitar,

The field recordings add to the charm. With what sounds like a thrush singing over running water, Bibio ensures Lightspout Hollow is bursting with life, while Crocus has a murkier profile.

Does it all work?

Yes, beautifully. Bibio’s songs or instrumental threads never outstay their welcome – if anything they could easily be stretched out for at least half their length, for his compressed way of working means time is never wasted.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Sleep On The Wing gets a strong recommendation, adding to the full to bursting Bibio discography a half-hour of pastoral charm. He is a remarkably consistent producer, but even so this is up there with his best work.

Listen

Buy

You can buy Bibio’s new release from the Warp Records website

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