Black Sands (Ninja Tune, 03.2010)
For: Massive Attack, Pantha Du Prince, Amon Tobin
Byline:Simon Green’s fourth studio release finds him helming a bonafide band with an incredible mix of live instrumentation and understated downtempo grooves. Originally published on www.inyourspeakers.com. Used by permission by In Your Speakers, LLC.
(Read Full Review Here on In Your Speakers)
...Black Sands expands and contracts with hyper-textual declarations of percussion, allowing programmed beats and live drumming to cavort freely with each other, creating a brilliantly lush sound palate with snare hits filling for trip-hop beats and vice-versa. Bonobo cuts broad swaths of musical cloth to weave trip-hop, dubstep, jazz, and balearic, into something wholly understated, contemplative, and downright sexy.
After a warm up of gorgeous ascending strings and a descending piano line, “Kiara” starts mid rave-up. A glitched-out beat gallops into the mix riding a cut-up vocal sample, before the repeated violin sample introduced in the intro sweeps back into the track with dynastic glory. While the violin is an oft and easily sampled standard, Bonobo waits for “Kong” to showcase what he can do with a live band at his disposal. A slinking bass-line and steady drumming step out from behind their timekeeping roles and become the true vehicles of the track, propelling Green’s orchestral compositions on one hand and his Massive Attack throw-back programming and live turntable scratches on the other....
...For as undeniably solid as Black Sands is, the last two tracks “Animals” and “Black Sands” are more than worth the price of admission. Both sound the most “live” on the album, with Green settling comfortably into the role of band leader more than a producer. The jazzy swing, “Animals” showcases the proggy leanings of late seventies jazz-fusion while “Black Sands” pulls off an elegiac, traditional folk waltz composed of acoustic guitars and alto-saxophones and trumpets to reach a thrilling climax. This is Green in top form.
With every listen and in writing this review, I think the only major genre that I haven’t mentioned is heavy metal. If at any time in the reading of this review you’ve gotten the impression that Bonobo is some hyper-kinetic ADHD blender of disparate genres, I have failed as a writer. Black Sands is incredibly cohesive and Green’s moves are so deftly subtle that it takes several dedicated listens to get a grasp on just how breathtaking this album is. Bonobo, you’re doing it right.