At the forefront of the increase in popularity of ambient electronica has been British producer Simon Green, a.k.a. Bonobo – and he has finally released a long-awaited sixth LP, Migration. As its title intimates, the album is inspired by his experiences as a nomadic musician, and draws on the notions of identity and movement. “Is home where you are or where you are from, when you move around?” is a question Green posed at a press conference – a question never more relevant than in today’s globalized and intertwined world. A textured study of the relationship between people and spaces, Migration’s diverse compendium explores the themes of identity, movement and home.
The album’s title track sets the tone for the record as it opens with a steadily building and shifting sequence of complex electronic programming, coupled with live piano-playing, effecting a sense of gradual, gliding movement. Nothing on the album is unoriginal. Brandy-sampling lead track “Kerala” employs simple harp and vocal samples and almost preposterously plays them backwards and forwards on top of each other to otherworldly effect. There are also numerous instances where Green employs instruments and sounds that traditionally belong to non-Western cultures, to glorious effect. It is such an amalgamation of sounds that produced the album’s most interesting track – “Bambo Koyo Ganda”, the unusual yet seamless marriage of Moroccan Gnawa music and a funky house beat.
Refreshingly, Migration features guest vocalists and sounds of various parts of the world. Guest appearances include Canadian Michael Milosh from Rhye, Australian Nick Murphy (formerly known as Chet Faker), Floridian Nicole Miglis from Hundred Waters, and the Moroccan band Innov Gnawa. Featured sounds, captured via sampler, include Seattle rain, a New Orleans fan boat engine, a tumble dryer in Atlanta, and an airport elevator in Hong Kong.
Given its diversity, the songs of Migration ostensibly do not come together with as much coherence as Green’s previous work. Yet, it is precisely this dissonance that marks Bonobo’s ambition with the new album. Described by his label Ninja Tune as “an attempt to capture the very textures of human existence”, Migration, in its amalgamation of different musical chapters, reveals concurrently both the connective system and variability that make up the tapestry of humanity. It avoids reducing the human condition to something immediately palpable, and provides no simple answer to Bonobo’s question of home. It is in precisely this complexity that lies its genius and beauty.