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(Mush Records)

Being recommended to a label by a member of Boards Of Canada is probably one of the better recommendations that a lesser-known artist could get, and that's exactly what happened in the case of Bibio's (aka Stephen Wilkinson) debut release Fi. Although one could draw some comparisons between Bibio and Boards Of Canada (an obsession with washed-out textures and the sounds of yesteryear), there isn't a whole lot musically that ties them together. Fi is a collection of very lo-fi folkish tracks filtered through a whole battery of unique production techniques, nearly all seemingly broken or discarded.

"Cherry Blossom Road" opens the release and the warm pulses of sound feel hazy and half-focused, like a walk through a photo of a forest that hasn't quite developed all the way. From there, the album moves through a series of acoustic-guitar tracks recorded on cassettes on location. Like the drone folk of Blithe Sons, Bibio lets the outside sounds of nature seep into his recordings and as a result much of the album sounds like it could have been recorded at any point in the past 100 years. The production techniques become a much a part of the music as anything else, and the varying levels of hiss become a part of the music texturally.

Even when he introduces programmed elements into the mix (as on "It Was Willow" and "Looking Through The Facets Of A Plastic Jewel"), they've kept very understated and mixed as if they were part of the environment in which the rest of the track was played. Vocals get nearly the same treatment, very ocassionally entering the mix and even then as a broken and scratchy element (as on the clipped dictaphone treatment in the very lovely "Lakeside"). While Boards Of Canada loyalist won't find much in common musically here with their beloved group, there's a sense of nostalgia and a love of antiquated objects and nature that Fi exhales. While it doesn't always work, it's an interesting and understated release from a young artist who isn't afraid to look back as well as forward.

Rating: 6.5