Bonobo - The North Borders (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
BONOBO enjoyed the biggest success of his excellent career with last album, Black Sands so it’s little wonder that he has attempted, in part, to replicate that formula with follow-up The North Borders.
The results, while perhaps not quite as brilliant as that album, are still deeply impressive. This is an artist, in Simon Green, clearly at the top of his game.
Described as more of “a coherent statement piece” that marks both a natural evolution and a continuation of the electronic palette of Black Sands, this exemplifies how electronic music can be intelligent, cool and hugely enjoyable without having to conform to easy formulas or crowd-pleasing antics.
Bonobo has always worked, to a degree, on a palette that extends to the cinematic. And The North Borders is no exception. This is mood music with an occasionally melancholy edge that also boasts a hip vibe as well. It’s effortlessly addictive.
As with Black Sands, The North Borders opens with a gem. First Fires, featuring guest vocals from Grey Reverend, is a masterful creation. Slick beats, sumptuous string arrangements, cinematic grandeur and a soulful central vocal from Reverend add up to something that’s almost achingly seductive and satisfying.
It’s followed by the toe-tapping Emkay, which sets an easygoing, playful vibe, and then former single Cirrus (another firm favourite) that combines more slick beats with layered chimes and an effortlessly cool vibe.
Erykah Badu brings her distinct vocals to the foreboding Heaven For The Sinner, the first track to display a darker edge, while some sultry female vocals add extra harmony to the Nightmares On Wax throwback that is Jets.
Bonobo’s flair for marrying his electronic style to great guest vocals is plainly evident again on Towers, featuring Szjerdene, which unveils yet more beautiful arrangements (and a sense of longing), while final track Pieces thrives on its subtle blend of stop-start beats, even subtler electronics, and innocent vocals of Cornelia (which contain an almost Bjork-like ethereal quality to them).
Prior to that finale, however, further enjoyment extends to the majestic instrumental Ten Tigers, which builds from a typewriter-style beat to offer some glorious electronic arrangements, and the funky Antenna, which sees Green at possibly his most liveliest and dance-focused.
Not that Bonobo’s music ever aims for the dancefloor. Far from it. It aspires to something far greater and more lasting. It’s music to enrich the soul and to carry with you for life. It has a timeless appeal and an intelligence to match its beauty.
Download picks: First Fires, Cirrus, Heaven For The Sinner, Ten Tigers, Jets, Pieces