[30 January 2014]
What is the point of an EP? In the days where vinyl dominated, an extended play was simply a seven inch record with more songs than the usual single. There were, to be sure, legendary EPs like The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and Mission of Burma’s Signals, Calls, and Marches, but now EPs seem a bit out of place. Many music nerds (myself included) will point out that vinyl sales are growing, but, in the digital age, EPs seem to be closer relatives to demos than to proper LPs. Collections of songs only connected by the people who made them instead of cohesive ideas tying the tracks together. UK electronic artist Bibio isn’t asking what the point of an EP is, with The Green E.P. he’s asking what an EP can be.
It makes sense that Bibio is experimenting with the nature of EPs; as an artist he’s never been one to conform to normality. Samplers and synths might be the basis for much of his work, but Bibio has also emphasized guitar in his sound. His gently plucked guitar often reflects the work of Nick Drake, though the The Green E.P. isn’t draped in sadness like Pink Moon. The Green E.P. is centered around “Dye the Water Green”, which was first featured in Bibio’s excellent 2013 album Silver Wilkinson. “I wanted to do a follow up EP with ‘Dye the Water Green’ as it is my favourite track off Silver Wilkinson and I also have a lot of music in my archives that would complement the track well,” said Bibio. And he’s done a fantastic job of surrounding “Dye the Water Green” with beautiful and pastoral songs.
For those who didn’t listen to Silver Wilkinson “Dye the Water Green” is an ethereal yet strangely moving piece. Bibio cloaks every note in gorgeous distortion: the guitar, synths, and gently played xylophone all merge together as Bibio sings, “Somebody waits for you / Maybe too long for you.” The music retreats for a few moments until a powerful synth line begins to build and the second half of the song has Bibio’s electronics snaking their way upward with what sounds like a soulful saxophone solo. “Dye the Water Green” set the tone perfectly for the rest of Bibio’s gentle meditations. “Dinghy”, the track following “Dye the Water Green,” was written by Bibio with fellow UK artist Richard Roberts (one half of Letherette) in 2006 but it sounds like it could have been recorded decades ago. The production is saturated in lo-fi gorgeousness with Bibio’s warm and playful guitar spiraling upward.
Fans of Bibio’s previous work might be disappointed in the lack of grooves on The Green E.P. as there’s no version of Silver Wilkinson’s head-bop inducing “Look at Orion!” (the closest thing here is closing track “The Spinny View of Hinkley Point”) but Bibio does experiment outside of the reverb washed Nick Drake angle. After the dark folk of “Down to the Sound”, Bibio reveals “Carbon Wulf”, a companion piece to Silver Wilkinson’s “Wulf.” The similarities are obvious but “Carbon Wulf” is a deeper and richer version of its predecessor. The song is just made up of a baritone guitar and a reverb pedal but the track feels vast and cavernous. Despite its short run time, it becomes one of the most moving pieces on the record. “Carbon Wulf” flows stunningly into “A Thousand Syllables”, which begins with a mournful string line that nicely complements the guitar work of “Carbon Wulf.” The strings fade to the background and an off kilter piano starts the next section which has Bibio musing on “a frozen dew drop spider’s web” as his guitar accompanies him. Bibio’s original guitar work drops out only to be replaced with a smooth and delightfully warm guitar lead that leads the song to its end.
With The Green E.P., Bibio has made a collection of meditations and variations on a theme, more in line with classical composers than DJs. Bibio’s work makes the EP truly sound impressively cohesive and tangible. The songs here pass like a particularly lovely daydream, gone far too quickly but with a tendency to linger on far after they end.