Release Date: Mar 23, 2010
Record label: Ninja Tune
Laid-back London groove maestro Simon Green (alias Bonobo) returns after a considerable absence (on the recording front, at least) with this fourth full-length helping of his masterfully mellow monkey magic. While it's not terribly divergent from the future-jazz cut-ups that made his earlier efforts such an instinctively natural fit with the turn-of-the-century Ninja Tune stable, Black Sands evidences a clear evolution into a more distinctive, sophisticated, and complex style, resulting in his most musically adventurous work to date, and certainly his most modern-sounding. Green's clearly been keeping his ear to the ground for a bit of rhythmic reinvigoration: the immediately striking "Kiara" reworks the hauntingly elegant string refrain that opens the album with submerged vocal splices and a halting, head-nodding left-field hip-hop beat á la relative Ninja Tune newcomer Flying Lotus, while cuts like the "Eyesdown" and "All in Forms" shade subtly toward the dubstep diaspora.
You know Bonobo, right? Even if you think you don’t, you do. The simian soundsmith’s songs will have seeped into your subconscious via any number of adverts, video games and TV show soundtracks. Three previous albums of lovely, funky, stoner chill out fodder; always playing its part beautifully, always in the background. Black Sands, it seems, is Simon Green’s attempt to force his way into the foreground.
We all know the much-derided Musak peddled by many a Buddha Lounge/Café Del Mar compilations helped the cause of dragging “chill out” through the mud. Luckily, the downtempo franchise has managed to benefit from Simon Green (aka Bonobo). While more uptempo artists like Fink and the Herbaliser were recently finding new relevance with concert-hungry audiences by striking a happy medium between laptop production and live instrumentation, Green was doing this back in 2001.
Picture the scene: It’s been a hard week at the office, a standard occurrence for the high-flying exec. As you place your crisp jacket over your crisp suit, you feel a few crisp cocktails are in order, so you head downtown to the ultimate casual after-work location. What’s that playing in the background? That’s right: jazz lounge. Call it Cafe Continental, Buddha Bar, Meditative Bistro, Rumination Boulangerie — in every guise, it serves the same purpose.
Bonobo has blossomed into something beautiful at his own pace. Paul Clarke 2010 There was little in Bonobo’s first two albums – 2000’s Animal Magic and 2003’s Dial ‘M’ For Monkey – to suggest that Simon Green could ever craft anything as grand, expansive and accomplished as Black Sands. Back then his moniker could almost have referred to his tendency to merely ape other trip hop producers without adding anything substantially individual himself.