Simon Green has continuously graced the music world with silky synths as Bonobo. Today he dropped his fifth LP, titled The North Borders, where he chose to stick to what he does best and give us 13 songs combining elements of down-tempo jazz translated through various instruments and musical tools at his disposal, which includes the voices of Erykah Badu, Szjerdene, Cornelia and Grey Reverend.
While 2010′s Black Sands had more of an overcast sound to it, The North Borders shows a sunnier side from the Brighton star. Upbeat from the start, “Emkay,” the second song off the album, is a jazzy tune that contains bells, chimes and a steadily bobbing beat. Add an incomprehensible droning voice and you have a great song that sets the stage for the rest of the album. And of course, Bonobo does not disappoint: The mixing throughout the album exemplifies how mature of a producer he’s become. The best albums allow you to get lost in your thoughts while still listening to the music, and The North Borders does exactly that.
“Jets” is the best song off of the album, and it combines a high-pitched melodic voice that simply says ooh and ahh and some beautiful piano scales, making a peaceful yet enthralling tune. “Know You” uses that same rafter-pitched voice as “Jets,” but it incorporates some elements from trap music. With its booming bass and subtle drops, “Know You” is eerie but oddly upbeat. “Antenna,” sounding like a tune straight out of Tokyo, tries for something sweeter, with flutes and affable snaps intertwining beautifully and sounding reminiscent of the work of the late hip-hop producer Nujabes.
Bonobo’s vocal contributors round the album off very smoothly. While he is no stranger to having singers croon over his instrumentals, it seems as if each artist was specifically scouted to jump on a particular track, resulting in some of his best songs yet. The North Borders uses established artists like Badu and up-and-comers like Cornelia and Szjerdene to slow down the album to an almost turtle pace and slowly guide us along a silky-smooth road of shimmering beats and shifting textures.
You can label it as chillstep, experimental or even electronic—whatever you want really. It doesn’t take away from the fact that Bonobo has given us a great collection of interlacing melodic songs that have real depth and distinction. He did something very difficult and made a better and smoother album than Black Sands. He deserves every accolade that is sure to come his way with this brilliant release.