Bonobo has always stood out in the downtempo scene by incorporating complex orchestral sounds to his version of jazzy electronic music. He has released many non-genre defining songs, as he continuously shows his drive to experiment with an array of music. It’s been four years since the release of Northern Borders. Although the album was sonically sweet, he didn’t reach its high expectation. Yet with Migration, Simon Green expands on more genres he hasn’t explored in his previous releases, constantly breaking the boundaries of downtempo electronica.
The first two tracks lay the foundation of the album from its simplistic approach.
They at first appear thinly layered until inviting synths can be heard loud and clear. On the opening track “Migration”, its gentle piano progression and dissonance makes it an ambient tune. As the song progresses, it then blossoms into a crescendo of melody and kit drums but it’s a moment that happens a bit too late. “Outlier” is where the album picks up from. Reverb heavy bells and detuned synths intertwine to create a gloomy and tranquil tone. It’s Drum patterns also resemble ones used in Burial’s Untrue, showing how the UK electronic music scene still has a place in Green’s heart, despite his move from the UK to the USA.
The twinkly xylophone and plucked guitar strings in “Second Sun” sound vulnerable, which are then combined with melancholic piano chords and violins. “Banbro koyo Ganda” displays the side of Bonobo that hasn’t been seen before. Drawing in sounds from Gnawa music, Gnawa Improv and Bonobo collide two different worlds of music that aren’t often met with each other. Gnawa vocals, orchestral strings and electronic instrumentals are stacked together to produce a diverse arrangement. The thick sub bass makes “Banbro koyo Ganda” appear like a catchy North African influenced club night hit.
Bonobo also dabbles in different genres with “Kerala”.
Looped harps, poly-rhythms and subtle 8-bit noise chime in harmony. It’s deep house vocals and techno claps are what makes this track the catchiest song on the album but also a breath of fresh air. “Ontario” is slightly reminiscent of “Kiara” with its use of East Asian instruments. It frequently jumps from one genre to another. It’s a mixture of trip hop, orchestral music, world music and a tiny drop of Bonobo’s “Days to come”, making it the most experimental song on Migration.
“Figures” concludes the album in a cinematic way. Serene stringed instruments and vocal samples almost seem romantic, where Bonobo connects music with nature, taking the listener to a sunset horizon. It’s a flawless bittersweet ending to the album.
When looking at all the songs collectively, the significance of the album title is discovered.
It’s awkward phases at the beginning is like struggling to adapt to new surroundings, the new influences of music relate to gaining knowledge and the album’s peaceful ending can be linked to being content with a surrounding. Migration embodies what migration means to Simon Green and how he’s felt moving to different places. Although “Break apart”, “Surface” and “No reason” feel out of place to the narrative of the album, Migration is one of the most passionate pieces Simon Green has created.