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New music from Simon Green aka Bonobo is always an event, but when it heralds the arrival of a whole new album (his first since 2013’s “The North Borders”), it’s really something to get excited about. The masterful, magisterial “Migration” is Green’s sixth album and it’s a record which cements his place in the very highest echelons of electronic music and beyond.
Lead track ‘Kerala’ was the first track Green recorded for the new record, putting together a rough version of it on the tour bus while DJing across the States in 2014. It’s both a classic piece of Bonobo music and a development, all arpeggiated, twisted, layered strings and shuffling dancefloor rhythm. The music gradually builds until his introduction of a sample from RnB singer Brandy, itself cut up and dealt with as a further texture, with the whole sitting in a sweet spot of uplifting euphoria that he’s so adept at finding. The hypnotic video (also released today), has been directed by Bison (Jon Hopkins/London Grammar/ Rosie Lowe). It compliments the shuffling arpeggios and beats perfectly by creating staggered loop effects where the lead Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace/Inside No. 9) battles through a mysterious, distorted reality with a meteor flying overhead.
In particular, there is a theme on the upcoming album of migration, eruditely put by Green as “The study of people and spaces,” he expands, “It’s interesting how one person will take an influence from one part of the world and move with that influence and affect another part of the world. Over time, the identities of places evolve.”
Indeed there is a “transitory nature” to the album, not only through its themes, but also through its guests and found sounds. Michael Milosh, from the LA group Rhye, for instance, is originally from Canada and recorded his affecting vocal on ‘Break Apart' in a hotel room in Berlin. Green, meanwhile built the structure of the track during a transatlantic flight. Nick Murphy (formerly known as Chet Faker), on the other hand, is from Australia, but a shared love of disco brought the pair together for the hugely emotive ‘No Reason’. Nicole Miglis of Hundred Waters, originally from Florida, delivers a superbly understated vocal for the glistening textures of ‘Surface’, while Moroccan band Innov Gnawa, based in New York, provide the vocals, on ‘Bambro Koyo Ganda’. Additionally, Green has used a sampler (“but not in a big boomer, wearing a cagoule kind of way.”) and woven found sounds such as an elevator in Hong Kong airport, rain in Seattle, a tumble dryer in Atlanta and a fan boat engine in New Orleans into his intricate sonics.
Bonobo’s DJ shows cannot be underestimated in importance to the overall feel of “Migration”, his much loved Output DJ residencies in New York and his global ‘Outlier’ club curated series were where he road-tested tracks. The landscape of his new home in California has provided the artwork of the record, designed by Neil Krug (Boards of Canada/Lana Del Ray). All the desert locations pictured “are close to where I now live,” Green explains. “Part of the writing process was to drive up to these places and live with the tracks as I was making them. This was a new part of the world to me, where the landscape is quite alien and Martian.” The album cover art has been gradually appearing in London and Los Angeles as giant murals, and have been fully unveiled today.
A contemporary of artists such as Four Tet, Jon Hopkins and Caribou, Bonobo also counts among his famous fans the likes of Wiz Khalifa, Skrillex, Disclosure, Diplo and Warpaint. His 2013 album “The North Borders” went Top 30 in the UK and was number 1 in the electronic charts in both the US and UK. In support of that record, the 12-piece band Green runs played 175 shows worldwide, including a sold out show at Alexandra Palace. Bonobo has built a large, loyal and engaged global fanbase: over half a million album sales and over one hundred and fifty million streams on Spotify point to the levels of success achieved by this quiet, self-effacing man.
It might be difficult to imagine it, but “Migration” will take his beautiful, emotive, intricate music to an even bigger audience. “My own personal idea of identity has played into this record and the theme of migration,” Green explains. “Is home where you are or where you are from, when you move around?” The personal, it seems, can also be universal.