Review Summary: In which Simon Green gains a wider following by being more direct
With the release of 2010’s Black Sands
, Simon Green (better known by his stage name Bonobo
) has become a more prominent figure in the trip-hop community. With it, Green’s mesmerizing beats simply went with the flow, and his consistent output over the course of several LPs and even more remixes became simply too much to ignore. But it was 2003’s Dial ‘M’ for Monkey
, Bonobo’s 2nd LP and 1st with the major record label Ninja Tune, which helped propel Bonobo’s name into the limelight. And Green offered Coldcut
, the label’s founders, exactly what they had asked for.
Opener ‘Nocturnary’ and closing track ‘Light Pattern’ serve as microcosms to the album as a whole. In the former, drum beats urge us forward as the effects spiral above peacefully, whereas in the latter an almost caustic harmony is established. Yet throughout, it feels like Green is trying too hard to achieve a sense of melody that normally comes naturally to him. During ‘D Song,’ the constant beat confines the track, one of the longest on the album, achieving almost nothing, whereas during ‘Pick Up,’ flutes attempt to power forward without creating any stirring atmosphere. Worse still, ‘Wayward Bob’ sees Green try and fail to mimic Tomoyasu Hotei
’s ‘Battle Without Honor or Humanity,’ exploding rather than generating the smooth vibrations which make him such a successful artist.
But writing off the album as a whole would be a mistake. ‘Change Down’ sees the most gorgeous marriage of his new style with his old, the beat serving to direct Bonobo’s phantasms rather than overpower them and the stirring overture promises his new experiment was not in vain. Better still are ‘Flutter’ and ‘Nothing Owed’, two tracks which nod at his other albums. With a blaring trumpet meandering through soft chimes, the former sounds like a beautiful love child between Four Tet
highs and the Thievery Corporation
style lounge aesthetic. The latter, on the other hand, rescues the meandering back half of the album, a welcome mournful overture pulling at the weary hearts of listeners.
To many, the style of music he adopted with ‘Dial ‘M’ for Monkey’ makes his music more interesting, because it makes listening to the album a more active experience. The album is more instantly gratifying and is easier to interact with, giving it a deservedly wide appeal. So though Green loses a touch of the subtlety that makes him so great, ‘Dial M’ remains an album that can be enjoyed at any time, by nearly anybody.