Bibio’s new mini-LP Sleep On The Wing sees Stephen Wilkinson continuing the sonic evolution that we heard on 2019’s Ribbons LP. Indeed, this album goes even further than Ribbons did in terms of leaning into the sounds of classic folk music - whereas Ribbons often balanced folkish timbres with the electronic and ambient tones Bibio had explored on prior releases, Sleep On The Wing is a largely acoustic affair. When synthesisers and effects take centre-stage, as they do on a track like ‘Crocus’, the treatment remains light and naturalistic.
There is a sprightliness to Sleep On The Wing that is inherited from the likes of the Incredible String Band. Tracks like ‘The Milkyway Over Ratlinghope’ sparkle and soar, the multitudes of stringed instruments thronging sonorously while harmonies hover languidly above them. At other points - ‘Lightspout’ and ‘Otter Shadows’, for instance - Bibio uses found sounds and relatively lo-fi production to imbue these tracks with the orange hue of a country sunset.
Bibio uses plucked strings to provide Sleep On The Wing with a gentle rhythmic thrust. However, there are points where these sounds are draped with electronic textures to create something more complex - on ‘A Couple Swim’, a track that Wilkinson initially submitted to be used in the Studio Ghibli film The Red Turtle, guitars are flecked with delay and echo to create something that sounds like an English folk version of Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint.
Sleep On The Wing is a set of wistful and wonderful modern-day folk instrumentals from the evergreen Bibio.