Friday 13th January 2017
‘Migration’, if it implies the intention of settling permanently in the destination of your travels, would hardly be the right word to caption Simon Green aka Bonobo’s eclectic, restless career as an electronic musician. His albums and live shows up till now have been a nomadic spree across continents as well as genres, and he has performed in as many countries and concert environments as you could name off the top of your head.
“Migration”, Bonobo’s sixth studio album, includes a vast collage of ‘found sounds’ he has picked up from his travels across the globe: an elevator in Hong Kong airport, rain in Seattle, a tumble dryer in Atlanta, a fan boat engine in New Orleans. Collaborators are as outspread as Michael Milosh from the LA group Rhye, Nick Murphy (or Chet Faker) from Australia, Hundred Waters’ Nicole Miglis from Florida, and Moroccan, New York-based band Innov Gnawa. He even samples Pete Seeger and Brandy. You picture Green as a techno flâneur, like Friedrich’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog pulling vast electronic landscapes from the dense sonic mist that has built up around him through his endless journeying.
The resulting songs are rarely exceptional, but the album evokes a consistent, transcendentally melancholic mood throughout. Green has previously held all-night Output DJ residencies in New York, but with this album he weaves his vast collection of sounds and samples into a tapestry that couldn’t be further from the nightclubs of America’s sleepless city – “Migration” is a tenderly sombre and reflective work. It is a deeply personal album, a sonic diary of his geographical inconstancy. “My family and I are all disbanded and spread to far corners of the earth”, Green explains in the album’s press release, “My own personal idea of identity, where I am from, and what home is, has played into this record and its migratory themes. Is home where you are or where you are from, when you move around?”
It would be hard not to take the album’s title as somewhat didactic given it’s outlying political contexts, the theme of dislocation might even be a comforting statement amidst the overarching political dialogues currently enforcing a fixed, rooted and introverted idea of what is our home and nationality. But in spite of this, the deeply personal nature of the album still creates an overly vague narrative that is just a little alienating and unsatisfying to the unacquainted listener. “Migration” is a little like the most romantic dream, beautiful and moving when you’re in it, and it seems to take you halfway across the world in a short space of time – only once you wake up you can’t half remember what most of it was about.