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Album Review: Bonobo - The North Borders

1 May 2013 | 11:00 am | Samantha Armatys

As the train pulls into the station the passing scenery becomes a distant memory, and leaves little reason to dwell for very long.

The journey to The North Borders with Simon Green aka Bonobo is a slow winding train ride through a long meandering valley. Occasionally a track or an unexpected blip will discern itself from the tapestry of passing scenery, but for the most part, the album passes by as a fuzzy blur of trees and hills.

With 15 years' experience, Green delivers his fifth exploration into the down-tempo, trip hop realm. His latest venture mostly comprises the same densely populated soundscapes that have provided a friendly cushion for many post-revelry pounding heads. Unlike the stellar Black Sands (2010), The North Borders has a palpable disconnect from Green's ability to turn the mechanical into the organic. The highlight track, Cirrus, is the most dynamic and really breathes some life into the album, if momentarily.

The voice is used more than ever before but is often managed like any other sample and buried under the foliage of ethereal melancholic instrumentation. Erykah Badu features on the muddled Heaven For The Sinner, but her sultry looping rhythms sound like they are painfully trying to claw their way to the surface. Fortunately, other guest slots are better handled with the album book-ended by two compelling performances. Opener First Fires featuring Grey Reverend could fit right into the CD rack between James Blake and Thom Yorke, and closer Pieces featuring Cornelia is as stark and pretty as a winter's day.

But, like any long journey that starts and ends with excitement, the part in the middle is easily forgotten. As the train pulls into the station the passing scenery becomes a distant memory, and leaves little reason to dwell for very long.

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