Are you stuck inside, gazing out the window at the pouring rain? Is a green sunset falling gently over the horizon? Are you lying down in a calm, breezy meadow, while the distant hum of a running creek and bird songs fill the air? If not, no worries, just turn on your speakers, press play and close your eyes. The dreamy new release, Migration, is a lush, wistful, and moody ride. The album is the sixth by Simon Green (aka Bonobo), and spans a wide-range of emotions in its 12 songs. Migration, released on January 13th, features Nick Murphy (Chet Faker), Innov Gnawa, Nicole Miglis (Hundred Waters), and Rhye, as well as vocal samples from Pete Seeger and Brandy.
London’s laid back groove connoisseur relocated to Los Angeles and arrived with a sweet serenade of tunes. Nature has always been a big influence of Bonobo’s, (just look up his album titles) and this is no exception. While he still offers his distinct vibe of break-beats and tribal grooves, the lush layers of bright soundscapes is what sets Migration apart from his previous work. In his whimsical whirlpool of samples and sounds, Green uses an airport elevator in Hong Kong, rain in Seattle, a tumble dryer in Atlanta, and a fan boat engine in New Orleans.
The opening track, “Migration,” is a lovely, floating piece. The song slowly builds on an echoey mid-range keyboard and piano. Eventually, far away drum sequences, which Green actually designed a specific algorithm for, begin to take shape and find foreground. The song lets the drums play before soaring into a vast and open finish. “Break Apart” uses an amplitude of percussive elements that blend and groove together. A marching snare finds itself in the distance behind hand claps, finger cymbals, and a persistent bell rhythm. Vocalist Michael Milosh (Rhye) provides an ambient, melancholy melody that was recorded in a hotel room in Berlin. Green then built most of the song structure while on a long flight; thus the listener begins to see why the theme of the album is so deeply rooted in travel, distance, movement, and shapeshifting.
The 8 minute long “Outlier” begins as a delicate, mellow dance tune. It builds with heavy bass and slowly transforms into a much darker, trance vibe. The bright meshes with dark, clarity becomes a fuzzy haze, and juxtaposition is found at its finest – the way the best dessert is cold ice cream on top of hot brownie. Finally, throw some sprinkles on top: Green sums it all up with a heartfelt harp arrangement and gentle reversed loops. In the album’s single “Kerala”, Green uses a vocal sample from R&B singer Brandy. In this subtly jungle-driven track, the vocals are more a texture than anything else. Various instruments enter and exit from left field, constantly driving the track’s head bobbing momentum.
Green has always been at the forefront of downtempo electronic; stylistically combining a freeform influence of jazz and a copy/paste ingenuity of trip hop. Throughout his nearly 20 year career span as Bonobo, Green is an aficionado of soundscape storytelling. He creates a sonic atmosphere that engulfs the listener. Migration appears simpler and more sophisticated than his 2013 release, The North Borders, because Green focuses more on quality than quantity. The album is an attempt to display and interpret various textures of human nature. As Green states, “Life has highs, lows, loud and quiet moments, beautiful ones and ugly ones. Music is a reflection of life.” Bonobo’s career and albums have covered many territories and sought new boundaries. Similarly, as Green says, “Over time, the identities of places evolve…is home where you are or where you are from, when you move around?” Migration is one man’s attempt at answering, or at least conveying an appreciation for these thoughts and ideas.
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: BONOBO – MIGRATION