Simon Green aka Bonobo returns with his sixth album, the masterful, magisterial “Migration” – a record which cements his place in the very highest echelons of electronic music and beyond. By turns lush, manic, beautiful, melancholy, joyful, packed with both emotion and technical skill, this is perhaps his most ambitious attempt yet to capture the very textures of human existence in his work, as Green says of the broad dynamics on the album, "Life has highs, lows, loud and quiet moments, beautiful ones and ugly ones. Music is a reflection of life."
In particular, there is a theme here 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 effect another part of the world. Over time, the identities of places evolve.” It is a theme with a personal as well as a sociological aspect to it. Last year, a close family member passed away. “My family and I are all disbanded and spread to far corners of the earth,” explains Green, “In the end we did the funeral in Brighton. My own personal idea of identity, where I am from, and what home is, has played into this record and its migratory themes. Is home where you are or where you are from, when you move around?”
Opener and title track ‘Migration’ sets the tone for the record – a shifting, gradually building combination of complex electronic programming (Green programmed a special algorhythm to create the drum sequencing) and live piano playing, the sense of movement in the music is palpable. ‘Outlier' channels a swinging take on 2-step back into luscious romanticism, before changing direction and finishing hard on the dancefloor (not for nothing has Bonobo talked about the central importance to the overall feel of the album of his all-night Output DJ residencies in NY and his ‘Outlier’ club curation series, where he road-tested tracks). ‘Second Sun’ mixes guitar, feedback and strings in completely unfamiliar ways. ‘Kerala’ takes a RnB vocal sample from a classic Brandy track and uses it more as texture than as voice. This innovation is expanded upon and broadened on ‘Grains’, this time with the voice of folk godfather Pete Seeger.
Beyond this, Green continues his theme of migration, through his guests and also his choice of found sound, which both strengthen and deepen “the transitory nature of the record.” Michael Milosh, from the LA group Rhye, for instance, is originally from Canada and recorded his affecting vocal over the harp and beautiful horn work of ‘Break Apart' in a hotel room in Berlin. Green, meanwhile built the structure of the track during a transatlantic flight (another meaning of “Migration” rests in the fact of making large chunks of the record while out on the road). 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, make up the last of the vocals, offering real grit and beauty to the housey shuffle of ‘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. A contemporary of artists of the status of Four Tet, Jon Hopkins and Caribou, Bonobo 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 two sell outs at the Sydney Opera House, an all-day festival at the Roundhouse and a sold out show at Alexandra Palace plus a number of high profile festival slots. 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. After all, the personal can also be universal.