The evolution of Simon Green’s Bonobo project has been a joy to observe. Each record has always sounded both distinct and distinctly Bonobo; there’s a clear progression in craft, becoming more sophisticated, polished, and also more commercially popular, as Green’s fanbase has grown in bedrooms, festivals and dancefloors around the world.
It's quite the journey: from the dusty, sample-led instrumentals of Animal Magic and Dial M for Monkey; a few steps out of the lounge with vocalists Bajka and Fink on Days to Come; Black Sands’ leap into more ambitious electronic waters; followed by North Borders’ shift to the dancefloor back in 2013. It's an amazing body of work for any artist to have under their belt and one which has informed and been informed by the shifting template of contemporary music over the last 15 years. With Migration, Green has achieved his most populist record yet. But this accessibility has downsides; one being that some of the charm that has made Bonobo's career so enjoyable to follow feels sanded down, with dancefloor eligability taking prority instead.
But on the surface, Migration is another rich body of work with plenty to get excited about. Signature Bonobo soundscapes comprised of rich, luscious instrumentals and carefully considered vocal snips are well-counted for. Opener "Migration" is one of them, as is "Grains", where deformed vocal samples meld into choral hamonies, wrapping around each other alongside Green's gentle ambience to humbling effect. Among the vocal spots, "Surface" is one of the finer: Hundred Waters' Nicole Miglis offers a wonderfully breathy deliverance which sits snugly within the accompanying ripples of Bonobo's textbook electronic orchestra.
And though it's easy to lose yourself in the ebbs and flows of Green's beautiful textures at times like these, Migration is not without its disappointments. It's flabby in places: "No Reason" is seven and a half minutes, with Nick Murphy's guest spot not inspiring enough to make you forget the clock. Tracks meander, without a perceived benefit from their slow deconstructions, often eventually fading out and beginning anew rather than utilising this time to achieve a track transition. Perhaps this reluctant crawl to the finish on tracks such as "No Reason" or "Ontario" is to balance out the large swathe of album material built for the club. Regardless, when Migration is at its best all is forgotten: Bonobo's ability to immerse the listener in a gorgeous electronic escapism is better than ever.