January's new releases delivered some odds-on certainties, some definite surprises and some sure fire hits
As the new year brought with it a swath of new releases, Years & Years reached number one with Night Call, Young T & Bugsey dropped Truth Be Told and George Ezra released his comeback single - Anyone For You. The Wombats told us to Fix Yourself, Not The World, Ella Henderson sang of being Brave and Twin Atlantic, unlike the PM, gave us Transparency. Whilst Charli XCX, Doja Cat, Central Cee, Blossoms, Charlie Puth and Maverick Sabre (among many others) were setting the airwaves and streaming sites alight a distraught Adele caused a storm when she announced at the 11th hour that she would not be able to fulfil her Las Vegas residency dates. Tears were also shed as it was announced that Meat Loaf had passed away on January 20th. Following the sad announcement of his death, three of his albums re-charted in the top 30, including his seminal 1977 release Bat Out Of Hell. January also brought us some great new albums and we've hand picked our favourite five for you here.
FKA Twigs - CAPRISONGS
We much prefer Bonobo's stage name to his real one (Simon Green - all a bit call centre manager, really), but otherwise there's always been lots and lots to love about his work, particularly in the last album 'The North Borders', his fifth and finest to date. Just as the 175 date world tour in support of said release is winding down, it seems Bonobo is now finding himself with itchy fingers, hence this EP, which along with a recent accompanying mixtape, showcases a much more lustrous, club orientated sound.
Also, whilst we're here: long live the EP, say us. Sometimes life's just too short for getting immersed by a whole album thing, so we salute Bonobo for bunging out 'Flashlight' which is, just as Goldilocks would say if she'd happened to have stolen the three bears' phone, just right. The title track is right, we reckon, up her petty criminal street with it's looped guitar strum, pfzting hi-hat and warmly Balearic melodies, a delicious concoction that beats boring old porridge any day.
The best thing about the opener though is that it's good, but it's not as good as the other two accompanying tracks: 'Pelican' is a hypnotic bundle of luscious, funky late night deep house stuff, a little darker but still elegant, whilst 'Return To Air' slides into another territory altogether; alt. R&B with intriguing half broken beats and cut-up vocals, a deeply soulful outro that deftly showcases our man's versatility. See, we've even got all the way to the end of the review without mentioning the words "Chill" or "Out", because we haven't needed them. But you could do that to this too, if you really wanted. 'Flashlight' is the sound of a man at the peak of his powers, whatever his real name is.
Continue reading: Bonobo - Flashlight EP Review
The only surprising thing about Bonobo's addition to the 'Late Night Tales' roster is that they existed separately for over a decade. Simon Green's heady mixes of midnight hour electronica and exotic down-tempo vibes run parallel to the 'Late Night Tales' modus operandi, and his selection of cuts for the latest release in their acclaimed series is unsurprisingly laser accurate.
Beginning with the autumnal neoclassicism of Dustin O'Halloran's 'An Ending A Beginning', it soon melts into the juxtaposition of echo-riddled beats and smouldering vocals that are spread across his own back catalogue. Individual highlights are a moot-point when considering a concept such as the 'Late Night Tales' series as it is all about setting the mood and seguing from one track to the next, but across the 21 tracks on Bonobo's offering, Nina Simone's take on 'Baltimore' shines brightest; glowing funk that is downbeat and browbeat but not downtrodden, and riddled with violin swells as hypnotic as Nina's own sighs.
The mix as an entirety is eclectic but not forcibly so. The prominent percussion of Shlomo's 'Places' and The Invisible's 'Wings' are a world away from the minimalistic, introspective work of Matthew Borne and the aforementioned Dustin O'Halloran, but Bonobo bridges them together effortlessly. He never tries to overawe by using attention-catching mixing techniques but lets the songs breathe into each other or fit together like a jigsaw, as on the couplet of Airhead's dizzying post-rock/electronica hybrid 'South Congress' and Matthew Halsall's 'Sailing Out To Sea'.
Continue reading: Bonobo - Late Night Tales Album Review
Andy Peterson reviews the year's best dance and electronica releases.
Bonobo 'Late Night Tales' - With the DJ mix compilation more tired than Nigella Lawson's vanity mirror, LNT are still working miracles in the genre against the odds, mostly by avoiding the usual suspects. Simon Green channels all things unorthodox on this, the year's best from the stable.
Rae & Christian 'Mercury Rising' - 2013 seemed to be the year the chill out kings came back (we also saw releases from Nightmares on Wax and Morcheeba), but the veteran duo managed to sound both cool and now on 'Mercury Rising', enlisting as able helpers Sam Genders, Mark Foster and, the king of laid back himself, Jazzy Jeff.
Continue reading: Andy Peterson's Top 10 Albums Of 2013
Albums of Note... Bonobo, aka Simon Green, may not have found instant stardom in his career but his work is characterised by a steady progress that is reflected in his tracks. North Borders is the fifth studio album from Bonobo and he calls on a range of influences, from hip-hop, soul, jazz and dubstep, to create a sound that has gradually developed into his own distinctive sound. Bonobo calls on a few friends for this album, notably Erykah Badu, who sings on ‘Heaven for the Sinner,’ a twinkling take on modern soul.
“What sets Bonobo apart in an overly crowded marketplace… is an expert ability to channel myriad influences from outside of his sphere into something that works perfectly inside it, not just within a single track but start-to-finish across an album.”
Simon Green, under the pseudonym Bonobo, has taken a long time to travel a short distance. In a manner mirroring the vibes of his music, Green's has been a story of slow but noticeable progression that has taken almost a decade and a half to reach what could well be a defining work of broad scope but instant familiarity.
For his fifth full-length, a great point of reference is another defining work, Yppah's Eighty One album which preceded the release of North Borders by almost a year to the day, and on the same record label. Both have the feel of an artist finally finding their voice after much experimentation with tone and dialect, situated in the hazy field of down-tempo electronica but calling upon traces of hip-hop, jazz, dubstep and more ambient spheres, and whilst on North Borders Bonobo doesn't go to the same lengths as the Joe Corrales Jr's crowning achievement there is still a pleasing amount of diversity throughout.
Both also call on vocal contributions from others but are primarily instrumental. North Borders' first single 'Cirrus' is entirely instrumental, with crisp beats and hang drum samples that bring to mind Portico Quartet transplanted fully into the nightclub dancefloors they've often stood on the edge of, but many of the album's highlights are vocal driven. Opener 'First Fire' has a soulful contribution from labelmate Grey Reverend that eases the album in perfectly, resting above sub-bass and ebbing strings that effloresce beautifully at the tracks climax, whilst Erkyah Badu's coos on 'Heaven For The Sinner', a marriage of snappy percussion and twinkling harps, typify modern soul. Her utterance "I'm just glad it's not a race, I'd lose" could well be an autobiographical epitaph for Simon himself.
Continue reading: Bonobo - North Borders Album Review
After the success of 'Black Sands' in early 2010, a remix album release was only a matter of time. The orchestral string arrangements, synthesized piano parts and sampled vocals within his work drew attention to Simon Green a.k.a Bonobo, who has been producing music since a teenager. 'Black Sands' was rewarded with critical acclaim, this lead to a series of remixes being collated by Bonobo and released as a stand-alone album.
Continue reading: Bonobo, Black Sands Remixed Album Review
Either an aspiring Cheeta (Special friend to Tarzan), or Johnny Morris wannabe, Simon Green, a.k.a. Bonobo, still has a fixation a la Doolittle, not Eliza but Dr. (I wonder if he toyed with calling his alter ego Bubbles? Hopefully not) Putting his monkey man credentials aside for the moment, 'Black Sands' marks album number 4 for the gifted DJ, Producer and Multi-instrumentalist. Its 2006 predecessor, 'Days To Come', stands as a high point in the Bonobo catalogue. It was voted 'Album Of The Year' by listeners of Gilles Peterson. It also delivered its creator unwittingly into the worlds living rooms via video game soundtracks, successful U.S TV exports 'House', 'C.S.I' and 'Californication' as well as TV advertising. You may have heard more of Si Greens work than you realise.
Black Sands is unlikely to not to replicate that success. The sweeping orchestrated movements, subtle melodies and filmic quality can all be applied in differing measures to suit a musical curators whim. Much of the music is light enough to sit behind a subject, but has a character that can be justified in isolation. The largely instrumental pieces are polished panoramas of luscious aural landscapes. Each has a signature, a beat and a hook, and also a clever idiosyncrasy that intrigues and delights.
The prelude that leads us off could feasibly be a Bonobo reworking of the opening credits to the cult Japanese martial arts show 'Monkey'. The oriental strings mix with reversed synth notes as 'Prelude' gives way for 'Kiara'. The hollow handclap beats sit superbly with the organ shifting, seismic depth charge of the bass notes. 'Kong' then brings in a summer scented, almost jazzy, gently swaying breeze of a tune accented with a peppering of pan pipes. 'Eyesdown', a recent free download, ushers in a more subdued Drum n' Bass style reminiscent of Nitin Sawhney or Talvin Singh. The laid back lounge lizard cool and smouldering vocal of Andreya Triana neatly complimenting each other. 'We Could Forever' is Haircut 100 holed up at the Club Tropicana pouring out some infectious Balearic beats. '1009' sees Bonobo conjure a tune out of what could easily pass as a phone on repeatedly failing automatic dial out. The distant dubbed vocal treatment contrasts with the repetitive rhythms and smooth strings to create a sumptuous sound.
Elsewhere on the album Mr Green pursues his musical exploration using Mandolin, Piano, Harp and Harmonium among others. String arrangements are softly wrapped over soulful vocals. Electro touches sit comfortably beside sax, flute and clarinets. Andreya Triana's introduction adds more texture to the already superbly layered creation and the subtle interweaving of all the elements is what lifts the album above the norm.
With Black Sands Bonobo has more than cemented his growing reputation for producing sophisticated, intelligent, lavish and luxuriant sonic vistas. The production is delicate. The arrangements and compositions are both stunning and sensitive in equal measure leaving you with an overwhelming pleasurable experience. His only worry....................that it goes the same way as a certain Moby album and gets licensed to everything until you're bored of hearing it!
Date of birth
30th March, 1976