Thoughts for Tonight: Bonobo

In an interview I read recently with Mount Kimbie they commented on the fact that “electronic music doesn’t really lend itself to albums.” This, certainly, is something that I feel plagues a lot of electronic producers; too used to producing singles, or tracks for DJs to spin in clubs, the process of an album, seems to lose momentum. In fact, despite my love for electronic music, the number of whole albums that I see could stand up against non-electronic counterparts is depressingly thin.

It may be the sheer nature of electronic music; it is meant to be heard through a soundsystem where the bass vibrates throughs, the high-frequencies shake you, and the melodies warm you. But I do not believe that the electronic full-length is forever doomed to such a fate.

Bonobo’s latest album ‘Black Sands’, is my all means an album, a full-length, a record of mood, rather than a collection of songs strung together. The downtempo, trip-hop Simon Green has returned. His previous albums often lent themselves to criticism of being a tad too close to the lounge side of chill-out, but fears of the same this time around will quickly be diminished.

Black Sands is still downtempo, it is still relaxing, you can most definitely still chill out to it; but there’s a new dimension here that he left from his first records. All In Forms warms you like nothing he’s done before, Animals breathes jazz influences like label-mate Mr. Scruff does, and El Toro has one of the best brass sections an electronic song has seen in the past decade. His landscapes are lucid, and they merge together perfectly.

‘Black Sands’, like the best jazz records, moves as a lulling progression, up until that penultimate track, and then the title-track slows the pace; rebuilding, replaying, and re-evoking all emotion that’s just flooded your ears for the best part of an hour. The collaborations with Andreya Triana have been creating quite the storm, and rightly so, her effortless vocal is perfectly at home, especially on Eyesdown, and Stay the Same. The album’s real highlights lie elsewhere though. Whether it be the Prelude into Kiara that plays beautiful eastern-influenced strings with dirty bass that Bonobo seems too scared to have given away in the past, the wonderful Zero 7-esque Kong, or We Could Forever that has a chopped, distorted guitar sample that reminds you of Brian Eno & John Cale’s Spinning Away.

The most refreshing thing about ‘Black Sands’ is how perfectly it works as an album, and this is far more evident than in his previous releases. This record will lose you on a journey that only the best triphop can do, and by the time the Black Sands‘ final guitars are fading out, you’ll be left nothing but breathless.

Black Sands

4 Responses

  1. Josh

    Bonobo “We Could Forever” guitar lick sounds pretty close to what Gabo Szabo and Charles Lloyd did on the live version of “Sombrero Sam”.

  2. Durojaiye Versatile

    I have been a fan of Bonobo since “Dial M for Monkey” and had no idea he had a new release. After hearing some tracks I decided to check out what folks are saying about it. This review is right on money, some electronic albums you do pick and choose from, however this is one I’m picking up the entire thing.

  3. Paul Reeson

    Just for Info: there’s no such track as “Spinning Mary”. I think you’re referring to “Spinning Away”, Brian Eno’s track from Eno & Cale’s album “Wrong Way Up”.

    • joshua

      Of course, my mistake, not sure where that ‘Mary’ came from. For a second I thought maybe Sugar Ray retitled it for their cover, but checking my Beach soundtrack they didn’t, so no idea where that came from.