Bibio - Phantom Brickworks

by Justin Pearson Rating:7 Release Date:2017-11-03
Bibio - Phantom Brickworks
Bibio - Phantom Brickworks

If you heard English producer Bibio's excellent album A Mineral Love from 2016, you'd be surprised to hear his follow-up Phantom Brickworks. But if you're already familiar with this artist, it shouldn't be too surprising there's such a big shift between albums, being the chameleon-like musician that he is.

Where A Mineral Love was infused with a retro-pop sound that borrowed from disco dancefloors of the past, Phantom Brickworks is pure ambience built from the surrounding haze of place and time, lending it an aura that's haunted by the strangely familiar. He recently described it as "...a collection of mostly improvised musical pieces, that for some years now, have provided me with a mental portal into places and times — some real, some imaginary, some a combination of both. Human beings are highly sensitive to the atmospheres of places, which can be enhanced or dramatically altered when you learn about the context of their history. Echoes and voices can sometimes be heard, in some way or another. Places sometimes have things to say.”

Title track 'Phantom Brickworks' is indeed a mental portal, getting into your head and calming the soul with a soft, tinny piano that feels as distant as time gone by. The stress relieving 'Capel Celyn' is utter contemplation, close to despair yet cleansing in its very recognition of itself. The simple synthesized melody seems to talk almost through the sad veil it wears, but as you listen to it you realize there's a hope that's being sought after, and it makes you smile inside.

Ghostly voices drift in and out of 'Phantom Brickworks III' amid more light touches of piano. 'Ivy Charcoal' has a melody that's unpredictable in its off-key shift, taking you by pleasant surprise upon first listen. With its sea-wash sound effects, it feels like stumbling upon a beached record player spinning a warped disc on repeat.

As much as these songs are mood pieces in and of themselves, the album as a whole works as a living soundtrack of sorts, each track altering or enhancing the landscape depending on where you are at a precise moment. Bibio has never been one to stick to a formula, and besides being a solid ambient album on its own, Phantom Brickworks serves to remind his fanbase of the one thing they can rely on - that he hasn't stopped exploring what's possible through instrumental/electronic music.

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