Bonobo – The North Borders album review

Drawing heavily from his trip hop and jazz influences present on his previous four albums, Simon Green who records and performs under the name Bonobo, stays basically true to form with his latest studio release titled The North Borders, available now on Ninja Tune Records. The music begs to be played late at night, preferably after heavy drinking and exhausting shenanigans. Heavy syncopated drums loop over ambient synths and assorted other instruments to create down tempo electronica that depresses listeners at the same time as it relaxes. Green also employs a tide like effect in many of his songs, with instruments coming in and falling out in a wave like pattern, at times swelling to almost indiscernible cacophonies and then fading to something legitimately lovely such as the strings that bring together the opening track on the album “First Fires”.

Where Green predominantly stumbles however is on such tracks as “Cirrus” and “Heaven For The Sinner” where Green seems to have such big ideas that they stumble over each other and collectively get lost in the noise. If it wasn’t for the track listing, listeners would have next to no idea that Erykah Badu is even featured on the song. Other songs such as “Jets” sound primed to be sampled but rather than cutting the catchy parts to make a full beat, Green seems to lose focus and become distracted by the vast array of sounds and effects available at his disposal.

The entire album was recorded in New York in the past year after what can only be described as extensive touring behind his previous (extremely popular, highly recommended by me) Black Sands and the time that was spent on the road can be heard on The North Borders. Many songs seem to blend together with the only discernible divide being the three or four seconds of silence between chiming instruments and low end rumbling bass.

This is not to say however that the album doesn’t have extremely strong tracks. “Ten Tigers” communicates the vision of what could have been if Green had managed his myriad of instruments balances better throughout the album and tracks “Towers” and “Transits” both show the full promise of what could have been. The orchestral width present on both tracks promises listeners who are intrigued enough to buy tickets to a live show that they will have an unforgettable experience seeing how Green attempts to re-create and if he follows his past blueprint, expand upon and improvise further for the audience’s benefit. In all, the album is by no means a failure but at the same time it is not a success. By staying in his comfort zone and producing more of what listeners are accustomed to, Green not only disappoints fans but also fails to live up to previous potential.

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