Bonobo on New Album, North Borders: "Things Get Exciting ... Outside the Comfort Zone"


Classifying any musicians's sound as simply downtempo is unfair. The term says nothing about the idiosyncrasies and stylistic nuances of the individual artist's work. In fact, it's merely a description of the music's rate of speed, a suggestion that these tracks are meant for afterhours home listening instead of the club's peak-time dance floor. Even worse, it often implies something like, These songs are generic muzak.

When applied to UK producer Bonobo, AKA Simon Green, this genre tag, downtempo (of which he was hailed as a leading exponent throughout the 2000s) is even more reductionist than usual. It betrays the lush, lyrical, and exquisitely baroque songcraft that characterizes his work.

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Black Sands, Bonobo's critically acclaimed fourth album, released on his home label of Ninja Tune in 2010, was a stylistic tour de force by any genre's standards, though it largely defied genre altogether. Ostensibly electronica, it drew from a myriad of world-music influences -- from jazz to Middle Eastern and Afrobeat -- and employed a stellar ensemble cast of studio musicians, as well as beloved British chanteuse Andreya Triana.

Never one to stagnate, his 2013 follow-up album, The North Borders, sees Green take the Bonobo sound into even deeper waters, with densely layered electronic textures and hypnotic grooves offering a more meditative listening experience. Not that the end result was premeditated.

"Albums are just a punctuation of music," Green tells Crossfade. "I don't usually start out with a manifesto. Your tastes change with the process of the album. I just make music and put it out when there's enough to call it an album."

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