After six years of releasing music under the name Bibio, UK producer Stephen Wilkinson has practically mastered his style of songcraft, one which relies on pastoral field recordings and touches of folk and soul music. His early albums (Hand Cranked and Vignetting the Compost) leaned heavier on bucolic, Boards of Canada-esque sounds, but Wilkinson's first album for Warp, 2009's Ambivalence Avenue, found the artist diving deeper into his love for homespun pop while leaving enough room for striking beat compositions. On Mind Bokeh, Bibio's fifth proper album, the producer attempts to mesh all of his proclivities into a sort of pop LP, with a less than desirable success rate.
When Bokeh does work, Wilkinson's arsenal of off-kilter rhythms, vintage instrument tones, lo-fi-sounding vocal hooks, analog synths, and crisp electronics channel the soul of classic AM radio hits. Though the comparison may seem unfair considering Bibio's experience, those tracks—songs like "Pretentious," "Wake Up!," "Feminine Eye," and "Light Seep"—bear a striking sonic resemblance to chillwaver Neon Indian. Then there are the other songs. The saccharine guitar and synth loops on "Artists' Valley" seem written solely for a car commercial, while "K Is for Kelson" relies on a bevy of cheeseball hooks. "Take Your Shirt Off" might as well be a Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute. "Excuses" can't decide whether it should be a mysterious opener, a somber ballad, or a noisy beat suite. With more misses than hits on Bibio's new LP, it's apparent that his array of influences are best served in separate portions rather than blended together.