Ninja Tune – 13th January
Simon Green’s work has never fallen neatly in to a box. While loosely considered electronica, it’s always harboured a more natural, more introspective quality than traditionally contrived dance music. Fittingly, this is something which itself seemed to develop organically across the course of Bonobo’s career; both 2010s Black Sands and its follow-up The North Borders each expanding an already liberal sound palette.
Such an expansion can arguably be attributed to Green’s transitory lifestyle. Having moved from Brighton to America before spending an inordinate amount of time on the road, new influences were sure to take hold, something evident in the African elements introduced with The North Borders. Along with new influences came a notable thematic shift, movement, place and displacement, and nostalgia all becoming prevalent in later releases. It’s Bonobo’s sixth studio album Migration however, where these themes feel thoroughly explored for the first time. Defined by Green as “the study of people and spaces”, Migration is influenced not just by Green’s interactions with his surroundings, but how other people react to theirs, and perhaps most importantly, how they react to being removed from them.
“Life has highs, lows, loud and quiet moments, beautiful ones and ugly ones. Music is a reflection of life,” he states. It might seem like a trite sentiment, but it’s something reflected perfectly in Migration, easily Bonobo’s darkest work to date.
The haunting opening title-track establishes the tone instantly. Progressive electronics are pared off against Jon Hopkins’ fragile, live piano; both contorting in to an ever more complex loop. It’s a bold opener, and one which conveys a sense of longing and a sense of movement effortlessly.
It’s not just the displacement or relocation of physical things that permeates Migration however. Interested in how influence can ignore geographical boundaries, ‘Bambro Koyo Ganda’ juxtaposes a traditional Moroccan vocal against a shuffling house beat. Though not managing to escape the darker nature of the record entirely, the result is infectious, and is arguably the most upbeat track on offer. Elsewhere ‘Kerala’ is quintessential Bonobo; a classic R’n’B sample creating additional texture in what’s otherwise sleek yet sombre outing.
Though the feeling of constant motion is entrenched in Migration’s frenetic nature, it’s also manifest in the fleeting appearance of Green’s guest vocalists, many of whom recorded their parts in separate states or even countries to Green himself, while the ephemeral field recordings that populate the record insidiously are a testament to the record’s level of detail. In addition, large portions of the record were recorded on the road, providing a more than fitting context for an album predicated on both a wistful sense of nostalgia, and what home really means.
While the feelings that populate Migration often stem from a personal viewpoint, they’re felt universally, making the record potentially Bonobo’s most accessible to date, its polished production matched only by the levels of subtle nuance that reveal themselves with each listen. As delicate as it is confident Migration might have been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait.
Buy: Bonobo – Migration.