Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bonobo - Black Sands (2010)

There was little in Bonobo’s first two albums – 2000’s Animal Magic and 2003’s Dial ‘M’ For Monkey – to suggest that Simon Green could ever craft anything as grand, expansive and accomplished as Black Sands.

Back then his moniker could almost have referred to his tendency to merely ape other trip hop producers without adding anything substantially individual himself. 2006’s Days to Come might have scooped Gilles Peterson’s Radio 1 listener’s prize for Album of the Year, but even then few would have predicted that four years later Green would have become a one-man Cinematic Orchestra, responsible for an album that can stand alongside Every Day or Ma Fleur as a classic of its genre.

For it’s not just a record label that Bonobo shares with Cinematic Orchestra these days. Like Jason Swinscoe, Green has progressed from predominantly sample-based production to more live instrumentation, although Green plays most instruments himself rather than relying on an extended family of musicians. But, more to the point, Green has become equally adept at mastering mysterious and multi-layered atmospheres.

But although the parallels with Bonobo’s peers are obvious, his fourth album doesn’t just sit in their shadows. Rather, it’s an inspiring example of how, free of pressure and publicity, he has blossomed into something beautiful at his own pace.

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