Office Listening: Bonobo - The North Borders

We get our ears around Bonobo's latest long player The North Borders. Check out what we thought here...

Jimmy Coultas

Last updated: 31st Dec 2013.
Originally published: 30th Dec 2013

It's not too often that the Skiddle gang can agree on music. The battles for control of the office airways are an often viciously fought affair, with compromise being something of an abstract concept. One of these very rare occasions comes courtesy of the wonderfully hypnotic, down tempo brilliance of Bonobo's latest longplayer The North Borders, which you can stream via Spotify below.

It was always going to be intriguing to see how Simon Green could possibly follow on from his critically lauded and extensively toured Black Sands, which enjoyed staggering reviews across the board upon its release in 2010. The North Borders sees Green expand his repertoire of live instrumentation with computer driven beats and sounds - key ingredients that have made his live shows a resounding success.

Whereas Black Sands featured sporadic articulations from Andreya Triana, here Simon Green enlists much wider ranging vocal talents from Grey Reverend on album opener 'First Fires'), a fairly subdued Erykah Badu on the swampy 'Heaven For The Sinner', Szjerdene on both 'Towers' and 'Transits' and the stunningly sweet sounding Cornelia on closer 'Pieces'.

With the album sounding specifically designed for live performance, Simon Green has undoubtedly succeeded in building a very distinct atmosphere within the arc of the LP. It's unmistakably Bonobo, with melodies both haunting and uplifting, getting under your skin and coaxing you into a much more tranquil plane of existence.

'First Fires' kicks things off with a James Blake sounding vocal presence, underpinned with a slo-mo combination of real drums and computerised toms and clicks, surrounded in classic Bonobo warmth. This pretty much sets the tone for the album, as inflections of strings ease in and out of the recording, lifting and struggling against sidechained beats and whispered vocals.

Other highlights include the almost Four Tet-like, chime lead 'Cirrus', the skittering, spluttering 'Sapphire', complete with a beautifully restrained harp reprise, and the late blossoming 'Ten Tigers', which ends in a goosebump inducing soaring string section, counteracting the intricately programmed, jittery stop-start instrumentation perfectly.

'The North Borders' is one of those albums that revels itself gradually, as the dense production coated in vinyl hisses, pops, crackles; blissful vocal arrangements; widescreen instrumentation peppered with a myriad of other undefinable field recordings slowly unveil their delicious complexity. It's a remarkable piece of work that is an impressive follow up to one of the most critically lauded down tempo albums of recent years.

Bonobo brings his acclaimed live show to Manchester's Albert Hall in Manchester on Friday 28th February. 

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