In honor of Migration, Bonobo's sixth LP, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and work my way through all his records. While a few still get consistent play and didn't necessarily need working through, for continuity's sake I did it anyway. What I came to find was something that I've never given thought to; I've always praised his ability to evolve and expand. No two albums are the same and yet they are still very much Bonobo, but in listening to everything in order I noticed how remarkably consistent he is in terms of quality. It's incredible really, that in his 17 year run (he began with 2000's Animal Magic), he has yet to miss. That's not just my opinion, it's the worlds. I fight for the USER!
His second album, Dial 'M' for Monkey, is what really hooked me. The noir-ish vibe built such a warm atmosphere, the subtle horns, steady bass lines, unique percussions, all of it lands. I was in, I wanted more, which is exactly what I would get over the next decade plus. While I said he hasn't had any misses, I do have my favorites, which brings me to 2006's Days To Come and 2010's Black Sands. Days To Come was his first record to feature vocals, most of which were provided by Bajka (check out her latest here), who adds to the jazz/soul atmosphere beautifully, giving the record a warmer Portishead vibe. It's hard speaking about an artist that you love but have never mentioned on the site. I want you to listen to everything, enjoy EVERYTHING! But alas, I need to temper my reviews so that you don't get overwhelmed. Just know that this record is still my favorite of his, though the followup is a close second.
Right when Black Sands starts you can tell it's different. This record featured his biggest leap in terms of direction. Once again the majority of the record is instrumental, though Andreya Triana, whose 2015 sophomore record Giants is REALLY good, lends her talents to a few tracks. This leads me to one of my favorite things about Bonobo as a whole. While many producers lean away from the solo work and start getting vocalists to feature all over the record, he does not. Instead he makes his sounds the primary focus, inserting the vocals sparingly, when they fit, which in this case makes them work to greater effect. He's had a few excellent releases since this, and I could quite literally cite every album and say "Listen to THIS" but I know you get the point, and if this is up your alley, you don't need me to tell you to explore because by this point you've stopped reading and started doing it anyway.
Before I let you go, we do need to talk about his latest, Migration, as it is the subject of this post. It's once again spectacular. It's actually rare that I'm stuck with so much music to enjoy all released within a month of each other. Run The Jewels, Bjéar, The xx, and this. Four spectacular records that all provide me with something different. It's a blessing for my ears and a curse for the time constraints of life. Once again Bonobo employs a small batch of vocalists for the handful of songs that require it, Rhye and Nick Murphy (Chet Faker) among them, though it's still Bonobo himself that provides the beauty, and the reason I will continue to return. Tracks like "Grain" and "Figures" have already made their way into my nightly routine, although generally I just play the album as a whole. The flow of Migration, like all his other outputs, is perfect; he operates with complete confidence and it shows in the records structure. Overall it feels like a combination of Black Sands and 2013's The North Borders, providing a strong dream-like element, a different mood then the jazz laden sounds of Days to Come.
Throughout his career Bonobo has incorporated so many different sounds that I'd almost stamp him with the 'world music' genre (similarly to Thievery Corporation). I really feel that at this point he's operating in his own realm. Each album sends you into a dream like tail spin. It's the night drive where you're passing through the bright lights of the city but it's all a blur as your mind's focus is completely internal. You're basically asking for that moment when you get to your destination and then realize you can't remember how you got there. It captures and controls you in the best way. Thankfully for us, his output of music has been as consistent as the music itself, and I hope that continues for years to come. Enjoy.