In 2013, not long after Big Shot interviewed downtempo bon vivant Simon “Bonobo” Green on the rooftop of a building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (watch the video interview here), he released his acclaimed fifth album, The North Borders and embarked on a nonstop tour around the world. Festivals. Club gigs. DJ sets. Name the city and Green and his band probably performed there — twice. An important musical statement in the arc of his career, Black Sands (watch Green explain how the album came together here) is where Green veered his sound in a darker, glitchier direction after arriving at a musical fork in the road. Having no doubt become a platinum member of his preferred airline, it’s no surprise that his sixth album, Migration (Ninja Tune), is a byproduct of his many travels and experiences. It’s also informed by his feelings about living as a Brit in New York outside of his native UK.
Migration is ambitious but not nearly as transformative as its predecessor. It didn’t need to be. The album finds him elevating his sound to a new plateau, one where he displays his seasoned mastery of conjuring thoughtful, compelling songs with sublime melodies and luscious instrumentation.
Green’s “No Reason”collaboration with Nick Murphy (f.k.a. Chet Faker) is pleasing, but he’s at his most brilliant when he’s heads down and cooking for the ‘heads. “Second Sun” is an emotive instrumental overflowing with cinematic strings and heartfelt guitar; the woozy “Grains” featuring snippets of folk music icon Pete Seeger is a case study in how to conjure understated euphoria; and “Kerala” is a quixotic, jittery sample track that skips along with perfectly placed samples from R&B songstress Brandy.
What’s next for Green is already known — he’s heading back on the road. Again. What’s certain is that whatever he sees and feels will manifest itself into the next chapter of his musical life. Safe travels, Simon.