Simon Green, a.k.a. Bonobo, has always been at the forefront of ambient electronica’s rising popularity, and the British producer 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 notions of identity and movement. “Is home where you are, or where you’re from when you move around?” is a question Green posed at a press conference – a question never more relevant than in today’s globalized 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, opening with a steadily building and shifting sequence of complex electronic programming coupled with a live piano track, 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’s such an amalgamation of sounds that produce the album’s most interesting track, ‘Bambo Koyo Ganda’; an unusual yet seamless marriage of Moroccan Gnawa music and a funky house beat. Refreshingly, Migration features guest vocalists and sounds from various parts of the world. Guest appearances include Canadian Michael Milosh from Rhye, Australian Nick Murphy (formerly known as Chet Faker), Florida native Nicole Miglis from Hundred Waters, and the Moroccan band Innov Gnawa. Featured ambient samples 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 don’t come together with as much coherence as Green’s previous work. Yet it’s precisely this dissonance that marks Bonobo’s ambition with his new album. Described by his label Ninja Tune as “an attempt to capture the very textures of human existence”, Migration, as an 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’s in precisely this complexity where its genius and beauty lie.