Simon Green, AKA Bonobo, has had a long journey up until this point in his career. After releasing his debut album in 2000, Green has been releasing some of the finest electronic music of the past decade and a half. From the soothing beats on his debut ‘Animal Magic’, and the wondrous rhythmic chimes on ‘The North Border’, Bonobo is finally back with another, truly exceptional album in ‘Migration’.
Greens new album is magnificent and a musical masterpiece (which is something you can tell right from the get go). The opening track ‘Migration’ is elegant, and features some sublime piano playing from fellow electronic composer Jon Hopkins. Its slow build up, and merge of electronic and classical instruments is something we are used to seeing from Bonobo. His carefully blended tracks make for an outstanding listen, and when the drums kick in on this track you can’t help but feel moved.
‘Break Apart’ is a quieter and slow moving track. It too has some more beautiful piano laying, and with the added vocals from Danish duo Rhye, this track becomes touching and mesmerising. This is a complete contrast to the 8 minute long, goliath track ‘Outlier’. Its marvellous synths flow brilliantly into a raging storm of synth beats and electronic wonders, which are mixed to perfection leading to a drop which has the hallmarks of a club DJs final song of the night. Its epic progression tied in with the simplistic piano makes for this to be one of the most fascinating and breathtaking listens on the record.
Next up we have an almost hymn like song in ‘Grains’. The beautiful harmonies which open the track are special, and create a unique atmosphere which Green uses in his music to compel listeners. And he certainly has here. This electronic hymn is yet another slow mover, however still gripping and beautiful. ‘Second Sun’ is also another slow burner, yet this time around the induction of a loud and deep bass and atmospheric sound effects, mixing in with a piano which resembles ‘Daydreaming’ by Radiohead as well as the violin, making this track a thing of beauty. Its something you’d expect to see on a David Attenborough documentary with birds soaring through the skies in slow motion. Its just stunning thinking about it.
We then enter a much more popier song next. ‘Surface’ features some reverbed guitars and some atmospheric and soft vocals from Nicole Miglis from american band ‘Hundred Waters’. This combination makes for a mellow and vibrant pop song. Something that musically sounds like Manchester duet Lost Under Heaven, but with more electronica thrown into the mix.
‘Bambo Koyo Ganda’ is without a doubt my personal favourite of the album. Bonobo seems to have taken a leaf out of fellow electronic composer Nicolas Jaar. The use of foreign musicians singing in these types of electronic dance music makes for a different and perfect combination, with he vocals coming from Maalem Hassan BenJaafe, a singer who formed Moroccan themed band Innov Gnawa. The trance-like electronic beats make this a steady culmination of sounds. This marriage in sound is the perfect combination, making this track a stand out moment in the album.
Lead single ‘Kerala’ is a 4 minute culmination of backwards vocals and harms played over the top of each other to form a rhythm filled concoction of beats and sounds which musically could belong on a Jon Hopkins record . The vocal samples don’t bleed through out the track, with the music really taking centre stage, from that slow precision build up and the noisy electronic club like feel, seeping its way though.
Similar to ‘Bambo Koyo Ganda’, ‘Ontario’ also has a foreign and mystic feel with a more far eastern sound blended together with a deep bass and skittering drum beats. Its just a beautifully crafted instrumental track.
The Nick Murphy (Chet Faker) featuring track ‘No Reason’ delivers an emotional feel, with Murphy’s musky vocals adding to the emotion on the track, especially around the 1 minute 35 second mark of the song. The last half of the song is filled with heavy, pounding beats which build and build and break into a ballad of synth and sound. Its not as fast as the tracks surrounding itself, however it has the momentum which could be remixed, making a versatile yet electrifying track.
The penultimate track ‘7th Sevens’ is another mesmerising atmospheric wonder. Beautifully played down keyboard notes, and enchanting beats again fuse together perfectly. With Green able to find the perfect blend of sounds for the track, this is a wonderful way to begin to close the record. With the introduction of the breathy synth sound, the song progresses from a slow building culmination of beats into a techno masterpiece.
The final track ‘Figures’ is a fish mash of vocal sample and synths, collectively bringing together the sounds and bests of chimes and precision. The enchanting vocal samples and the effortless sound from string instruments midway through the song build up the climax of over 1 minute of fading sound which comes to rest with one atmospheric sound being played until it fades to nothing.
Overall, migration is truly exceptional. The expertly crafted songs on this record are magnificent in their own right. The culmination of sounds on this record make it one of the most exciting releases i have heard in the past year, and certainly one of the best electronic albums I have heard. When it was first released, I took one listen and thought this album will end up being one of my favourites of the year. The next day, I had purchased the vinyl.
Even though we are 2 weeks into 2017, ‘Migration’ has the power and elegance to take on anything.
Word by Piran Aston