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Review: Bonobo's Album, "Migration"

Updated on January 19, 2017
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Bonobo's Jaw Dropping Craftsmanship

Based in LA, British electronic musician and producer/DJ Bonobo (real name Simon Green) has released his sixth studio album, 'Migration'.

While countless albums have excelled in representing and expressing the spirit of a particular community, country or neighbourhood, Bonobo’s ‘Migration’ is uniquely globe-trotting. The release’s overall outlook is boundless. The LP’s title track is guided by a roaming and intrepid spirit. By the end of ‘Ontario’, listeners will feel like they’ve been taken on a three-minute ride around the world. The tune practically demands listeners get on a plane and travel somewhere.

In the hands of a less skilled producer, songs like ‘Kerala’ and ‘Bambro Koyo’ wouldn’t work. In fact, most of ‘Migration’ wouldn’t work. Bonobo’s craftsmanship can be jaw-dropping. His creative intelligence and attention to detail holds the project together. Balancing introspection and attack, the best cuts on ‘Migration’ quickly separate themselves from the rest of the tracklisting. They’re restlessly innovative, in a non-invasive way.

Wrapped in Epic, Silver Screen Textures

‘Migration’ isn’t free from moments that underwhelm though. Its passable offerings languish in a state of calm contentment. The songs on the introductory end of ‘Migration’ make clear creative statements about the album as a whole, however they’re rarely unmissable. They’re often outshone by the crop of biting highlights strewn across the record’s back end.

‘Grains’, ‘Surface’ and single ‘Break Apart’, which features vocalist Milosh from LA-based R&B duo Rhye, are all wrapped in epic, silver screen textures. However, listeners who are not in a similarly sedated mood may end up bypassing them. Placed amongst these tunes, ‘Outlier’ is an exception. ‘Outlier’ counters its own contemplative ideas with a standout, club-ready electro segment just after it’s midway mark.

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Taking Inspiration from Brandy

The stress free ‘Second Sun’ is a yearning and gradual piece of ambient music. It’s deeply thoughtful and moonlit. The illustrative, atmospheric track would slide neatly into the backdrop of a Hollywood movie. Easily outdoing the song ‘Surface’ (which features Hundred Water frontwoman Nicole Miglis), highlight ‘Bambro Koyo’ impacts as soon as its brilliantly memorable club beat kicks in. Co-starring New York-based Moroccan music outfit Innov Gnawa, ‘Bambro Koyo’ is achingly progressive. Bonobo fuses the tune’s orchestral passages and mighty low end tones with Innov Gnawa’s traditional Moroccan vocals.

Bonobo merges another batch of contrasting ideas on ‘Ontario’, a comparatively outlandish effort. Opposing its own bravery, ‘Ontario’ feels delicate. Occasionally unpredictable, the track grows in stature as it progresses. The song’s leisurely hip-hop beats, ornate strings and far east flavours are executed with deft precision.

Bonobo samples a snippet of R&B singer Brandy’s 1994 track ‘Baby’ for standout single ‘Kerala’. Supported by weighty 2-step beats and cascading, delicate loops, Bonobo’s Brandy sample is immediate and ingeniously used. Like several other tracks on ‘Migration’, ‘Kerala’ finishes light years away from where it begins.

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Photo Credit: Instagram @TimGSimpson
Photo Credit: Instagram @TimGSimpson
Photo Credit: Instagram @TimGSimpson
Photo Credit: Instagram @TimGSimpson

Guided by a Wandering Spirit

Featuring the vocals of Australian singer/songwriter Nick Murphy (previously known as Chet Faker), the album version of ‘No Reason’ is a seven-minute long wonder. Murphy’s humbled falsetto is casually complimented by Bonobo's excited digital ideas. After its midway mark, the track ascends into a bassy, edgy and upfront phase. Because the first section of ‘No Reason’ is pensive and solitary sounding, it’s gratifying to hear the tune release its inhibitions and focus on the dancefloor.

Guided by a wandering spirit, ‘7th Sevens’ is slick, sexy lo-fi trip-hop. The cut’s initially muted beatwork and spacious breakdowns stand out. ‘7th Sevens’ is scattered with animated drum fills, which are just as hard to ignore. On the surface, ‘7th Sevens’ is a chilled, airy affair, however, there’s real motion to the cut. It doesn’t stop moving, its always pushing ahead. Listeners will actually be able to witness '7th Sevens’ transforming as it plays out.

A Forward Thinking, Electro Lullaby

Finale ‘Figures’ is a heavenly, downtempo highlight that quickly lifts itself above the tunes preceding it. The song shape shifts and is hard-to-pin-down. It’s a forward-thinking, electro lullaby. Commencing in a round of appeasing beats and flickering with ghostliness, the song is simultaneously romantic and mournful. ‘Figures’ is the kind of tune a listener can just sit back, zone out and reminisce to. It's wonderfully atmospheric. Yet still, ‘Figures’ is disjointed enough to be challenging and progressive. It could soothe the worst kind of day, for a moment at least.

Verdict: ******* 7.5/10

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