Admittedly coming out at the start of the year, it’s taken me a while to get round to Bonobo’s latest album. For those whom enjoyed his work on The North Border, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here – but it’s a step towards a foggy ambience and chill out twilight that whilst I personally appreciate, other’s may feel it’s more of the same – but lighter.
The title track is a superb opener and has more in common with bands like Mammal Hands and GoGo Penguin with piano splashes over increasingly complex drums and synth sounds. It’s rocking, but it’s also airy. The detail is hidden in the little patterns and motifs that build towards a greater feeling of something. Bonobo also spends much of the album playing in various real acoustic instruments into the frame as a main melody maker. They are often fragile like the harp in the dreamy “Break Apart” and the percussion shuffles around it all. It’s a lovely track and following the groovier and glitch-lite “Outlier” form a dreamy haze of bells, harps, voice and soft pillowy caresses.
“Grains” is a slow motion mail merge of vocal samples, crunchy percussion loops and stretched strings that grow into a ballet of unlikely base emotions. It acts as a meaty track that let’s the sumptuous “Second Son” shine further. It’s a melodic motif of keyboard, strings and electric guitar and feels cinematic, symphonic and has a production quality like it’s being played in a large hall so there’s a gentle echo wash to it. It’s emotive and a real change of tact. Another standout track is “Surface” which features the unmistakable Nicole Miglis from Hundred Waters on vocals. It’s a glowing tidal wash of peace and happiness and is a chill out anthem in waiting. Pushing the club scene more “Bambro Koyo Ganda” takes Innov Gnawa’s husky vocals but doesn’t quite use them to such epic effect. There’s a wonderful vocal chant hiding in the strings, bass and beat but it never quite hits its climax. “Kerala” does go for it though as the beat, tempo and chopped up samples reach their chart-able and danceable heights on the album. It’s smooth, catchy and pristine clean on the ear.
“Ontario” keeps the big hitters coming with an excellent trip hop piece that brings a bit of darkness, industrialisation and edge to the album. It’s got a lot of different cultures mixing into the fray and the brass arrangement and beat against the ethnic instrumentation gives everything a culture class vibe – in a good. Seven minute epic “No Reason” is as standard dance track as the album gets before “7th Wonder” brings in metallic synth waves to create what I’d imagine Phillip Glass would create if he went to club. The album closes with “Figures” which feels like a reprise of a lot of what’s come before – thrown initially through a tape deck that likes to chew things up. It swells to its icy orchestral finale and then slow over its final minute fades away like a star into the night.
“Migration” is very much the sonic sister to “The North Borders” and that’s no bad thing at all. They have their own nuances whilst still chasing the same type of acoustic chill out vibe – and both succeed with aplomb. Interesting Four Tet’s new album has also followed a similar style – we’ll review that later in the week but if you have the chance – both should be in your collection.
Recommended Track : Surface