In the past it seems Bonobo, aka Simon Green, has suffered at the hands of those who have been all too willing to drop his music neatly into the pigeon hole marked ‘chill out’. This ought not to be an insult, but when his music has been used for a Citroen advert it’s easy to see where the misconception has occurred.
Of course his music is relaxing – but it’s far more than that, too, as Black Sands undisputedly shows. This is beautifully crafted music, colourfully orchestrated and winningly performed by the band, with Mike Lesirge, Tom Chant and Jack Willey all exceptional in their command of the wind instruments at their disposal, with each sensitive enough to the music not to overplay any of the solos.
Then there is the small matter of vocalist Andreya Triana, a real find for the group. This woman could easily sing her way through a list of MPs’ expenses and leave you wanting more, and it’s through understatement that she does it. As with the rest of Bonobo’s music there are no frills, no excess baggage; the music is allowed to speak for itself.
Triana comes off best on the exceptional Stay The Same, and adapts effortlessly to the more jaunty swing of El Toro. Of the instrumental numbers all are beautifully crafted, but two stand out in particular. The opening Prelude and Kiara, with an evocative, Eastern influenced violin line multitracked by Mike Simmonds, impressively brings a booming bass to the fore three minutes in. The title track ends the album, working through a steady build from the initially melancholic clarinet line through to a real position of strength, the full band united at the close.
It feels as if Bonobo has been working towards this album for his entire career to date, as it represents the culmination of an upward curve in previous records. That he brings together hip hop, subtle funk, cinematic soul and even a smattering of dubstep makes the achievement all the more impressive as it all sounds so natural and organic, each melody unfolding as it was destined to and each rhythm dropping at exactly the right spot.
It is a hugely impressive piece of work, and subsequent listens will reveal further layers and melodies you missed first time around. Don’t delay the induction a minute longer.