Bonobo has blossomed into something beautiful at his own pace.
Paul Clarke 2010
There was little in Bonobo’s first two albums – 2000’s Animal Magic and 2003’s Dial ‘M’ For Monkey – to suggest that Simon Green could ever craft anything as grand, expansive and accomplished as Black Sands.
Back then his moniker could almost have referred to his tendency to merely ape other trip hop producers without adding anything substantially individual himself. 2006’s Days to Come might have scooped Gilles Peterson’s Radio 1 listener’s prize for Album of the Year, but even then few would have predicted that four years later Green would have become a one-man Cinematic Orchestra, responsible for an album that can stand alongside Every Day or Ma Fleur as a classic of its genre.
For it’s not just a record label that Bonobo shares with Cinematic Orchestra these days. Like Jason Swinscoe, Green has progressed from predominantly sample-based production to more live instrumentation, although Green plays most instruments himself rather than relying on an extended family of musicians. But, more to the point, Green has become equally adept at mastering mysterious and multi-layered atmospheres.
Black Sands’ 12 tracks aren’t generally as long, interconnected and intricate as those on Cinematic Orchestra albums, but Green does call on a slightly wider range of influences than his contemporaries. So whilst the spiralling, symphonic likes of Animals and the title-track could indeed have come from Every Day, We Could Forever saddles an Afro-inflected guitar and skittish flute to deep sub-bass and Kiara combines Oriental strings with cut-up beats. He’s also found an ideal vocalist for his beats in the form of young singer Andreya Triana, who adds the same sort of insouciant elegance to Eyesdown and The Keeper familiar from her work with Mr. Scruff and Flying Lotus, and which bodes well for the pair’s further collaborations on Triana’s own forthcoming solo album.
But although the parallels with Bonobo’s peers are obvious, his fourth album doesn’t just sit in their shadows. Rather, it’s an inspiring example of how, free of pressure and publicity, he has blossomed into something beautiful at his own pace.