At this point, you know what you’re getting yourself into with Stephen Wilkinson. His work as Bibio has danced between 90’s house, lo-fi, breakbeat, and a litany of other tags across the length of single albums. This is a difficult thing to do well, but Bibio makes it work by maintaining a distinct recording style, the fidelity of which feels attainable, nostalgic, and rich - like a neighbor of yours has a home recording project that you’ve always admired. His music sounds like a secret, often accompanied by soft tape hiss, that has only ever been shared with a small handful of people.

Incidentally, there are millions of Bibio fans. 2009’s ambivalence avenue has achieved cult status despite the whispery softness of the production and the folktronica stew that details his songs. His latest, Ribbons, is still a distinctly Bibio-sounding record. Coming from someone with the ability to produce a solid club track like 'fire ant,' this predictability is simultaneously disappointing and steadfast.

Still, Ribbons is his most complete record yet. Where older records lack concision in their genre, this album lacks it in the length. There are sixteen tracks, and Ribbons wears its weight too proudly. However, this is more of a freak folk album whereas all of his past work hasn’t been so definable by a single tag. Wilkinson now has self-control under his belt.

Bibio plays freak folk with a grace and virtuosity we haven’t seen from him before. This guy can really shred on the guitar. The campfire classical of his playing is thoroughly flexed on 'Watch the Flies,' complete with a bona fide solo section. Bibio rounds out his playing, also always acoustic in nature, with a litany of string instrument friends: 'Ode to a Nuthatch' is a Pentangle-inspired guitar/mandolin dance, and 'Patchouli May' provides a violin and Fender rhodes backdrop that could easily play in a backcountry Irish bar. Both of these tracks can easily make you forget how nice of a singing voice Bibio has underneath all his muscular guitar playing. The fact that he doesn’t oversaturate his records with it is an impressive exercise in self-restraint.

A lot of more recent freak folk greats use modern instrumentation to round out their sound, but Ribbons sounds like it could have been recorded at any time between the Britfolk revival 60s through the mid-00s freak folk craze. Still, Wilkinson carries his trusty keyboards and Toro y Moi-sounding electropop tags on two distinct tracks, 'Before' and 'Old Graffiti.' Like the rest of the record, these tracks could have been made in a Bibio song-generator, but stick the landing because they’re placed sparsely throughout a mostly instrumental record. Another departure and possibly Ribbons’ best track is 'Pretty Ribbons and Lovely Flowers,' which is incidentally the bleakest piece on the album. The track plays with ghostly delayed vocals and overblown synths, but is still shot through Bibio’s restrained recording style. You’ll wish there more moments like it on the record.

The back half of tracks plays out like a rehashing of the first half more than an expansion on them, and Ribbons suffers from it. For a guy with so many talents up his sleeve, Bibio maintains a somewhat regimented and stiff sound. Still, the inviting nature of this record is well worth the time. It’s Wilkinson’s most picturesque and organic album, easily playing somewhere in the background on a summer day - perhaps coming from that neighbor of yours that’s secretly a classical guitar whiz.