Album review: Bonobo – Migration


Bonobo, aka Simon Green, has fans who have good reason to place their trust in him over the past 16 years. His skill is not only in the quality of his music but in the consistency; his music transcends genres, eras & trends, without ever sounding irrelevant. Drawing inspiration from hip-hop, garage, ambient, folk & latin music, his output is an assortment of electronic bass, delightful vocal melodies, obscure instrumentation and ethnic percussion. Does this release live up to previous expectations?…

Starting off with a less polished sound, Bonobo’s early Ninja Tune releases were based around samples in a traditional beat-making set-up. This has morphed over the years and grown into a live performance, giving the last two albums a more grown up finish. His most recent output The North Borders received worldwide success, along with an impressive tour that was equally well received. He kicks this year off with the release of Migration, a hotly anticipated project from every corner of the musical world. Fans knew that this was set to be a very visual piece of art, with the two leaked videos and accompanying artwork being very striking. Both pieces reinforce the power of the music beautifully, one being incredibly jarring – whereas the other utilises drone footage to inspire calm. Fans who decided to purchase the deluxe gatefold 12” record will be stunned by the attention to detail, from quality posters for the tracks, to a book about the release. It is a thing of beauty!

a2250087452_10Nick Murphy (f.k.a. Chet Faker) is someone who was born to work with Green. Their similar songwriting prowess and flexibility as producers combine to build something special. Influences from Four Tet, Burial and Radiohead are tastefully presented, especially in the drum work, and even at 7 minutes 30 seconds it is detailed enough to hold your attention. The intricate foley and found-sound add so much texture to the mix, the way that Murphy’s vocals are processed also build some tension. This is, as always, a brilliantly thought out piece of music… but maybe it is missing some of that reckless rule breaking that comes with youth. Even though it features a very club friendly low-end and a hint of garage in the drums, it was still destined for a Sunday afternoon rather than a Friday night. This has potential to be another gem, but his last album had its fair share of growers, so only time will tell.

Kerala has been available to listen to and view since November 3rd 2016 and the video has caused quite a stir already. It is an intriguing story played out in a mesmerising and frustrating manor, the track itself is nothing of the sort however. It is in a similar realm to Mount Kimbie, but the closest thing to it would be an earlier Bonobo production. Green does not put a foot wrong from start to finish on this piece, every harp sample, each swinging drum layer and all of the jumping bass notes would easily be enough by themselves. However at the halfway point the vocal comes washing in during the breakdown. A perfect cocktail of soul, gospel and R&B tones play off each other, tessellating to create something entirely new. This technique is of course nothing new and is heard throughout garage music regularly, but the way in which he manipulates each individual piece with such a musical ear is nothing short of god-like. Rounded tom hits from analogue drum machines give the second drop even more depth, and along with the exquisite vocals, nothing more is needed. We are left with a drum-less outro showing off the other layers.

Break Apart was also released with an accompanying video, and it is once again nothing short of spectacular. The breathtaking drone footage captures what appears to be other planets with unfamiliar lights, colours and textures. This coupling in particular seem to mirror each other more precisely, the movement reflecting the uplifts, the light and patterns echoing the instruments. As we often hear on Green’s vocal choices, this one is softly whispered by Rhye, it is a polite arrangement with brushed snare rolls and glissando horns highlighting the transitions. Many tracks have sounded as if they were searching, longing for something that was out of sight; this one has a similar quality.

While at first glance this may not be considered as his finest work, it is clear that he has raised the bar once again – maturing into one of the world’s most respected producers and songwriters. Listeners from any musical background will be able to appreciate his craftsmanship, and as always the live tour will be outstanding. Come and make your own mind up at Richer Sounds today to hear it on one of our separate hi-fi system’s.