British musician Simon Green, better known by his moniker Bonobo, has been long revered for his contributions to electronic music, dating back to his 2000 debut “Animal Magic,” establishing him as a pioneer for the burgeoning downtempo sub-genre. His 2013 record “The North Borders” was, however, a departure from his established trip hop and nu-jazz roots for which he is famous. “The North Borders” was a foray into the relatively nascent house genre, a recollection of his storied roots as a Brighton disc jockey and a desire to embrace a genre with which he held some semblance of familiarity. It was not an imperfect album – it was characterized by a level of sonic density which dampened the liveliness of its jazz foundations – but it was an exciting taste of Green’s future. His latest project “Migration” is that future realized.
As its title would suggest, “Migration” is movement towards new territory for Bonobo. Gone are the jazz influences which characterized his past works; “Migration” is a house album from beginning to end, with a notable lack of live instrumentation. In an interview with Anna Codrea-Rado of Thump, Vice Media’s music and culture channel, Bonobo notes his switch from studio work to the utilization of a laptop with audio workstation Ableton Live and a library of samples. With this move towards mobility comes “Migration’s” non-linear nature. Tracks such as the 8-minute thumper “Outlier” and second act standout “7th Sevens” are novel executions of Green’s house assets, but complement their oddly polar siblings “Grains” and “Second Sun,” both of which are largely cinematic and string-oriented. The disjointedness is a genuine reflection of the producer’s geographic movement over the past five years, from London to Manhattan to Los Angeles, not only sonically but emotionally. It is an energetic yet contemplative affair.
Of course, Green embraces his usual worldly nature, enlisting American musicians Mike Milosh of California band Rhye and Nicole Miglis of Gainesville-based group Hundred Waters for vocals on “Break Apart” and “Surface,” respectively. Moroccan collective Innov Gnawa and Australian producer Nick Murphy, formerly known as Chet Faker, also appear on “Bambro Koyo Ganda” and “No Reason,” contributing further to the record’s universal atmosphere.
“Migration” is not revolutionary, but it is indicative of Bonobo’s desire to seek new horizons, to move to a new rhythm. It is sophisticated, it is dynamic and best of all, it is forward-thinking. If this album is Bonobo’s first steps toward new territory, then imagine where the next long trek may lead him.