Bonobo
Migration


4.0
excellent

Review

by davidwave4 USER (54 Reviews)
January 15th, 2017 | 129 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Bonobo feels necessary again.

There’s something I’ve been meaning to formally declare for a while now. I really love Bonobo. Well, Bonobo’s music. From end to end, there’s not been a Bonobo album that I’ve not liked, and there are a couple of albums of his that I’d rank as small masterpieces (Black Sands being THE magnum opus). That being said, if you were to listen to Green’s back catalogue from end to end, starting with Dial ‘M’ for Monkey all the way through The North Borders, you’d find precious little to differentiate them. One of the biggest problems for artists as consistent as Bonobo is that, upon finding a template that works, it’s hard to break free. A few too many of Bonobo’s latter-day songs are structured the same way, all building to the inevitable Signature Moment. For Green, that signature is a wash of jazzy reed instruments. Just listen to the coda of “Towers” or “Kiara.” As this formula got further engrained into Green’s music, it cheapened the quality of his releases. After a bit, a new Bonobo release becomes a bit like getting groceries: you know you need it, but you’re not expecting anything surprising or mind-blowing out of it. But I should have known something was up when the Flashlight EP dropped. Now I know for sure. Migration is different. For all the similarities it bears with prior Bonobo projects, there’s more than enough different here to mark it as a sea change, one that pleasantly upsets the formulas that Green’s music often hues towards.

But I’ll start with the similarities. Firstly, this is still a lush downtempo affair. Don’t expect Bonobo to bust out the trap beats or the earth-shattering future bass drops. It’s still plaintive as all hell, and the Jean-Luc Ponty/Dorothy Ashby vibes are still abundant. But that’s about it. In almost every other way, Bonobo reshapes and recontextualizes his signature sound. Most of this is done through subtraction. Migration isn’t defined by its lush swooning strings or its knotting guitar lines in the way that The North Borders was. Songs like the title track and “Break Apart” tend to simmer instead of scale, and the hypnotic grooves that these songs get into more closely recall Jon Hopkins (who plays piano on “Migration”) than James Blake.

That’s not to say that these songs are boring or uneventful. In fact, the opposite is true, as the tightly wound loops and arpeggios unwound into beautiful vistas that recall the album’s artwork. “Kerala,” “Bambro Koyo Ganda,” and “Outlier” are probably the most club-ready tracks Bonobo’s made in the better part of a decade, and their inclusion here lends the album a good amount of texture. And the use of algorithmic and other purely digital forms here gives the album an interesting inhumanity that plays up the beautiful humanity of Green’s samples and instrumental performances. The title track “Migration” is probably the best example of this, as Hopkins’ gorgeous improvisation runs up against Green’s algorithm and live triggering of samples.

Beyond the fancy new dynamics, there’s a lot to write home about in the guest appearances. Traditionally, Bonobo’s built entire albums around a single vocalist showing up a number of times (Szjerdene turns up twice on The North Borders, Andreya Triana and Bajka show up three times on Black Sands and Days to Come, respectively). This lend the albums the feeling of a collaborative effort moreso than a single artist’s single vision. On Migration, Green flips the script again by bringing on a pretty eclectic range of artists for single-outing features. Rhye’s Mike Milosh shows up to imbue “Break Apart” with a yearning fragility. Nick Murphy (formerly Chet Faker) turns in what is probably his best recorded performance on the club anthem “No Reason,” while Moroccan artist Maalem Hassan Ben Jaafer of Innov Gnawa lends “Bambro Koyo Ganda” an exotic edge.

The newfound minimalism and eclecticism of Migration isn’t exactly polarizing, but it is the kind of artistic decision that has the potential to make or break albums. For some acts, stripping away the elements only brings light to the shaky foundation that the music is built on (just look at Skrillex’s ill-advised “post-dubstep” excursion Leaving), while for some it reinforces what made their music so compelling in the first place. For Bonobo, it’s the latter, and with Migration, he’s made the perfunctory feel necessary again.



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user ratings (151)
Chart.
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
CaptainDooRight
January 15th 2017


2233 Comments


Nice I used to jam Bonobo back in the days

CaptainDooRight
January 15th 2017


2233 Comments


Skimmed it. Nothing really stood out tho :[

wtferrothorn
Contributing Reviewer
January 15th 2017


5781 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Stellar review man. I was thinking about reviewing this, but I don't think I could top yours. After a listen or two, enjoying it quite a bit, though that's to be expected from Bonobo.



Kerala is a certified Bonobo banger. I love it.

zaruyache
January 15th 2017


18093 Comments


I need more downtempo nonsense in my life. Never really jammed Bonobo so here's hoping.

AdolfChrist
January 15th 2017


13583 Comments


ehh, might check this.

Digging: Swarms - Black Chapel Sun

Gyromania
January 15th 2017


23757 Comments


Heard this was actually pretty boring. Not sure if I'm going to skip or not. Will probably wait to see what potsy is saying and go from there

TheBarber
January 15th 2017


3602 Comments


solid review

Digging: Wanderwelle - Lost in a Sea of Trees

anatelier
Contributing Reviewer
January 15th 2017


2024 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

pleasant listen. think i prefer it to north borders. ontario, migration and no reason are quality cuts.

magicuba
January 15th 2017


1248 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

On it. Black Sands is one of my favourite electronic records

Digging: Joy Division - Closer

LordePots
January 15th 2017


38569 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this is a really lovely review



had no idea this was out so soon

Digging: Blondes - Warmth

Ocean of Noise
January 15th 2017


9818 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This guy rules. I love Black Sands and The North Borders.

Digging: Orbital - The Middle of Nowhere

LordePots
January 15th 2017


38569 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm only 3 songs in but so far I'm really really happy with this. It's the first Bonobo album in over a decade to show a lot of progression. Not to say it doesn't sound like Bonobo, but all his albums before stayed pretty comfortable. His style is awesome so that was never really an issues but it did make his catalogue a bit homogenous. This really stands out.



I'm surprised because the single 'Kerala' was a pretty standard (but awesome) Bonobo single.

InfamousGrouse
January 15th 2017


4285 Comments


spun this yesterday; pleasant listen indeed

LordePots
January 15th 2017


38569 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Outlier and Bambro HUGE standouts so far

wtferrothorn
Contributing Reviewer
January 15th 2017


5781 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah bambro is fucking sweet

p4p
January 15th 2017


1959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

damn the cover got me drooling

Sinternet
January 15th 2017


15070 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

really? i always thought his covers were a bit shit

Digging: Charli XCX - Pop2

p4p
January 15th 2017


1959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

days to come is kinda shitty but The North Borders is beautiful and soothing to look at

LordePots
January 15th 2017


38569 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i love the covers for this, North Borders, and Black Sands



and Black Sands Remixed



also Animal Magic suits it.



Don't like Days to Come art tho

wtferrothorn
Contributing Reviewer
January 15th 2017


5781 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Black Sands' cover is pretty as fuck, I actually have it as my computer wallpaper rn



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