Published Jun 10, 2020Records should not be judged by their covers, except in the case of Bibio's Sleep On the Wing. In this instance, the image of a city at night in the shape of a bird, flying over rolling hills of farmland meeting the horizon, is a perfect visual capture of the music inside. Bibio, a.k.a. Stephen Wilkinson, tends to create albums in pairs. Sleep On the Wing is the counterpart to 2019's Ribbons, continuing the gentle tread through similar exploratory terrain.
Though gentle, the record is also a little unsettling. While the feeling of hope in the face of tragedy certainly comes through, there is also the sense, as embodied by the bird, of constant motion, and the contrast of city against country. Through its experimental leanings, there is a grassroots folk influence that comes through strongly, with some classical threads as well. Various string instruments can be heard, both bowed and finger-picked, and all played quite proficiently. While mostly instrumental, the vocals that are present are wispy harmonies, almost working as background instruments.
The first several songs on the album, while different from one another, flow gently and are guided by a somewhat ambient/experimental sensibility, culminating in "Miss Blennerhassett," with folksy finger-picked strings that nearly cascade into a jig. From that point, there is no predicting of what to expect. The sound is never gritty or raucous, by any means, but the almost jarring collision of genre remains hopeful without getting comfortable.
Sleep On the Wing finds comfort in discomfort. The emotions expressed are not completely happy but there is also the sense that listeners can make peace with this. (Warp)