Review Summary: Something worth your attention that probably won't grab your attention if you offer it.
Don’t go penalizing Simon Green for the “limits” of his music. It’s not his fault that down tempo has the uncanny ability to slip into the background in any given setting, much less past the attention of those people in the close vicinity. Since his Animal Magic
was released in 2000, the English DJ has spawned a career that’s known for its consistency and large output, if not for containing any high level of “wow” factor, as he's had a hand in many-a-remix album, a dozen or so EPs, and four studio albums under the name of "Bonobo". Black Sands
sees the DJ continuing his heavy bass tones and melodic trip-hop journeys even further into the present, picking up vocal assistance from Andreya Triana along the way on a few tracks - who worked with sonic neighbor Mr. Scruff (Andy Carthy) on his Ninja Tuna
album – and delivering an end result that’s probably destined to be passed over, if only for the nature of its contents.
Getting right to it: is failing to grip us in any particular way really a negative for an instrumental album of this nature? Well, not in the strictest sense; in fact, it just proves how well Mr. Green is able to tinker with his tools, wave the atmospheric wand, and sweep our attentions away with his hypnotic down tempo – well, to some other place away from the music in question anyway. But that’s not to say that Black Sands
is necessarily droning and monotonous in a boring way - quite the contrary, actually; most of the tracks contain a unique set of elements and tools specific to their goals. “We Could Forever” finds solace in the Caribbean with its limbo-islander pace and agenda; and on the opposite end of the spectrum, “Stay The Same” brings on the melancholy with a pop structure and a morose voice, by way of female vocalist Andreya Triana, moving along with a simple beat and the company of a jazzy saxophone. The remainder of the cuts fall somewhere safely between the two - possibly a little to the side on a few tracks - making Black Sands
a pretty varied listen throughout its course, despite its often grip-less feel.
It’s the one-way path for each individual song on Black Sands
– and as seemed to be the case, Bonobo’s past albums as well – that keep the mood of the album feeling very similar throughout, however. In general, what you are presented with within the first five seconds of any given cut is what you what are going to get for the remainder of four-to-six minute track lengths - with slight deviations here and there. With that in mind, it's pretty easy to understand why Black Sands
could be trying and difficult to those more accustomed to the sped-up pace of trip hop - relatively, that is - or just the often-times more eventful IDM experiences. However, the aesthetic surroundings for Black Sands
are spot on and soothing for the confines of the down tempo sub-genre, amounting to an album that does happen to flow by unnoticed, yes, but fortunately never hits any rough bumps along the way.
The entrancing title track is the structuring thesis of the album, and very much for the majority of this style of music as well: calm acoustic arpeggios lull and drift, a gentle electronic tinkering embeds itself in the background, and a saxophone returns from earlier to fill in any holes left unattended. Varying sounds aside, it never really goes anywhere in particular, really, but just slides peacefully along throughout its length. In much the same way, Black Sands
grips without gripping, lulls you into a trance of lulling, and plays without you necessarily knowing that it's playing: essentially, down tempo in its purest sense, played by the rules of Simon Green, and in total, an overall great exercise in the art.