The North Borders
People really started to take notice with Black Sands and its palinode remix album but, as Bonobo, Simon Green has been creating lush, atmospheric post-chillout electronica in such a way as to almost make you forget those silly overused near-enough-now to meaningless words like ‘lush’ and ‘atmospheric’ (and for that matter ‘electronica’, and ‘post-chillout’). And he’s been doing it – consistently – for a long time.
For his latest, it’s another step up, another sonic level. Lead single and album standout, Cirrus, does threaten to dwarf the rest of the record – it’s so good. It’s so perfect; it’s like Portico Quartet immersed in deep house, it’s on the same level as Flying Lotus but in a way Bonobo offers the very opposite experience, for this is not wonky and skewed – these beats are meticulous. For all the love that is in the air for broken-beat soul this is the sound of the fixed beat; fixed as in repaired, perfected.
That doesn’t mean it stays completely straight – and Bonobo works well with guest vocalists, Eryka Badu is buried on Heaven For The Sinner – in the best possible way, I should add. Woozy and clipped – it further shows that Badu is super-adaptable whilst also retaining her signature sound and that Green is masterful in cutting up around a vocalist.
Later on Towers (featuring Szjerdene) we’re reminded of Morcheeba – without being bored. And it’s jazzy textures across Don’t Wait before it gets altogether more dance-oriented for Know You.
There’s a remarkably broad sweep across The North Borders – for it’s actually a tightly controlled album; deceptive. It is filled with ideas, almost bursting, yet it never feels like a throw-everything-in-the-hope-something-sticks approach.
The very best of it – which is most of it – is the sound most bedsit producers are sure they’re getting. They must listen on in the hope they could one day get this close. From cinematic passages to newly realised versions of the “cafe” music from 10-15 years ago this is an album of crafted gems; so many of them resembling the look and shape of a quality pop song too, in that Green arranges each piece to exist in its own space, to be comfortable extracted from the album as well as sitting inside the flow of the record.
He’s made five great records across the last decade and a bit – and he’s getting better with each one. The North Borders is a record that gets better with each listen, it’s more involved each time, it feels, somehow, like there is more in it with each listen. That’s what I want from music. And I’ve found it here.