The Wire (pp.53-54) - "FI lilts between pretty, unassuming plucking and more tweaked, amorphous interludes."
Photographer: Stephen Wilkinson.
Bibio's Stephen Wilkinson began the evolution from wistful folktronica to a more elaborate, eclectic sound with 2004's Fi. By that time, mixing electronic and acoustic elements was nothing new, but these songs show that Wilkinson had something unique to add to the style. Unlike the many folktronica acts who limited themselves to a little rustic-sounding strumming for texture, Wilkinson's guitar plays a major, and intricate, part on Fi; "Puffer"'s circling patterns, "Lakeside"'s winding drones, and the delicate picking on "Bewley in White" spotlight his considerable skills. While earlier albums like this one and Hand Cranked feature more guitar than much of Bibio's later work, Fi introduces aspects that endured throughout his career. Wilkinson's debut is filled with songs that are restful, but not boring; he doesn't even bother with beats or basslines until "It Was Willow" arrives nearly a third of the way through the album, and when all of these elements fall gently into place on "Looking Through the Facets of a Plastic Jewel," it feels like the clouds parting. Vignettes such as the balmy "Wet Flakey Bark" and experiments like "Teleidophonic Touch" also found their way onto later Bibio albums, albeit in more polished forms; indeed, Fi's slightly unfinished feel is the biggest reminder that this is Wilkinson's debut. Even if the album dips into noodly, overly long territory occasionally, this doesn't detract from its serene beauty. Fi's simplicity and elegance make it a fine foundation for Bibio's music, which he soon took in more adventurous directions. ~ Heather Phares