Album review: Bonobo’s Migration contrasts early work

Simon Green, aka Bonobo, released his debut album, Animal Magic, in 2000. Since then, he’s released five other albums, incorporating live instruments and embracing influences ranging from house, jazz, and soul to Asian, African, and Middle Eastern styles of music. Green has played quite a few soldout headlining shows, as well as main stage appearances at festivals such as Coachella and Sasquatch.

His newest album, Migration, was released last month and soon became the album I would always turn to when I needed to do homework or write a paper for class.

The Guardian called the album “pensive ambient electronica from a nomadic soul,” and they couldn’t be more spot-on.

Ever just get lost in a song? Plenty of the songs in this album have that effect on me. Whenever I’m working on something, I like having music in the background—something trance-y and not too catchy. Migration is the perfect album to get lost in, or to just have in the background, and I mean that in the best way possible.

A majority of the songs may have somewhat of a groggy feel to them, which also makes Migration a great “rainy day album.” My favorite track on the album, “Break Apart,” features the smooth vocals of singer Rhye and matches the delicate vocals with a harp. The song is soulful, but melancholy and I would often catch myself putting it on repeat.

The nearly eight-minute song “Outlier” is definitely my favorite song to get lost in. It’s a delicate balance between building up and breaking down, and the whole song in itself feels like a journey. It captures Bonobo’s signature sound of layers of instrumentals, while speeding it up and even adding a club-type beat mid-song.

“Surface,” featuring Nicole Miglis from the band Hundred Waters, resonated with me because of the glowing vocals. The lyrics complement the the mood of the song perfectly, when Miglis sings, “Seek the surface / I can make it up / by not being perfect.”

I really wanted to like the song “No Reason” because it features a singer I love, Nick Murphy (formerly Chet Faker), but it came across as flat to me when compared to the other tracks. If this song would have had a better sound, I would say that the album was perfect.

A notable song in Migration is “Bambro Koyo Ganda,” featuring Innov Gnawa, a New York-based collective who makes gnawa, a spiritual Moroccan form of music used in healing rituals. The song puts a unique twist on Bonobo’s sound, pairing culture with an electronic dance beat, which has a pretty cool sound.

As a whole, Migration is an interesting contrast from Bonobo’s earlier work, which is more trance-y and dance-y. I think that this new album has a lot more depth in terms of both sound and vocals. The style of this album is more downtempo than most electronic music, but sometimes I’m more in the mood for that. And when I am, Migration is the perfect accompaniment.

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