Simon Green aka Bonobo returns with his fourth, most eagerly-anticipated and most accomplished album to date, the magnificent 'Black Sands.' Green proves once and for all with 'Black Sands' that he is an artist and producer with his sights set on much higher prizes than to rule any dusty subgenre of dance music. This is a record of epic reach and massive emotional pull, all held together by Green's understanding of composition and arrangement of live instruments (most of them also played by him) as well as his complete mastery of the tricks and techniques of the digital age. 'Black Sands' is the most contemporary record he has ever made.
Opening track 'Kiara' sets out Bonobo's stall quickly. Yes, there is an exquisite string refrain, reminiscent of Chinese art movies, but Green places this within the context of a thumping beat, deep synths and cut up vocals. 'Kong' seems closer to the soul-jazz template which has long influenced the Bonobo sound but each further listen showcases both the intricacy of his productions and the subtlety with which he achieves them. The skipping beat of 'Eyesdown' and the way he weaves Andreya Triana's vocals through layers of sub-bass show Green making his own moves with the influences of two-step. 'El Toro' brings a Brazilian flavour but without losing any of the hard snap of the beats. 'We Could Forever' combines high-life guitar lines with punishing, melancholy bass. First single, 'The Keeper' shows Green and Triana coming through with their most intense, emotional soul jam. 'All In Forms' once again combines a shimmering beauty with some serious beat 'n' bass action. 'Wonder When' showcases Andreya Triana's voice again, this time in the context of a polyrhythmic finger snapper which will lead to euphoric scenes on the dancefloor. 'Animals' sounds like Joy Division jamming with Steve Reich and a bloco band. Title track 'Black Sands' finishes the album with a perfectly judged, melancholy waltz, waves of horns swelling up to the kind of finale that sings in your ears even after it has stopped.
Since Simon Green's last album, 'Days To Come', he has become one of Ninja Tune's biggest artists worldwide, with over fifteen million plays on Last.FM and a series of sell out tours with his live band which have moved from venues such as the Luminaire to the Kentish Town Forum and the Roundhouse. This combination of superb live shows and studio wizardry means that he is now perfectly placed to push on into a yet bigger league. With 'Black Sands', Bonobo has made the progressive record to achieve it.
Available on LP here at Conch
New York hip hop producer Tony Simon aka Blockhead returns with his third and best instrumental album for Ninja Tune.
Blockhead has long made beautiful, emotive music based around the hip hop template, but on "The Music Scene" he elevates his craft to another level. Tony puts it down to the use of Ableton, which means that rather than working from "one basic beat and building off it" (the standard hip hop model), he has begun stringing together multiple beats and weaving them together into increasingly complex, surprising and satisfying pieces of music. As he himself puts it, "I made each song a little more of a musical journey than anything I have ever done before."
Blockhead's ambition to "tell stories without words" is evident from opener "It's Raining Clouds" onwards. The tune starts off as classic downtempo and ends up almost drum and bass, the music having changed and fallen away, echoing back through itself and feeding into previous themes at least three times. It's an epic in an album of epics.
At the heart of the record is the remarkable "The Daily Routine" - an exploration of drug addiction (based around a found recording of drug addicts arguing), Blockhead says "it's pretty much the creepiest song I've ever made." "Four Walls," meanwhile aims a musical broadside at the current vogue for autotune. "Which One Of You Jerks Drank My Arnold Palmer" is huge ambient space rock hip hop. "The Prettiest Seaslug" is Bahia-beat on opium. "Tricky Turtle" begins as afro-blaxpoitation, turns into a voodoo orgy and ends somewherte in the Middle East. "Farewell Spaceman" starts off sounding like an outtake from "Bewitched" and ends as an ecstatic, chugging flight off into the stars.
While "The Music Scene" represents a development in Blockhead's work, he still holds true to his basic beliefs about music and rhythm. When not working on his new album he has been providing production for Aesop Rock, DJ Signify, Joanna Erdos and many more, plus remixes for Yameen and Chin Chin, amonst others. Whereas the music scene is "a bastardized version of something that was already watered down," Blockhead's "The Music Scene," like his career as a whole, is "the opposite of that." By re-working, chopping and melding samples, by blending them together, Blockhead restores rather than dilutes their purity.