Bonobo offers musings on the nomadic life in new album

Migration - a simple, but oh-so- loaded word in these fractious times.

The sixth studio album by British producer Simon Green, who goes by the moniker Bonobo, takes on the much-beleaguered term, as he reflects on his own itinerant lifestyle as well as the death of a close family relative last year.

"My family and I are all disbanded and spread to far corners of the earth," he said. "In the end, we did the funeral in Brighton. My own personal idea of identity, where I am from and what home is has played into this record and its migratory themes. Is home where you are or where you are from, when you move around?"

This theme hangs over the dozen contemplations. A pretty piano melody in the opening title track is buoyed on fluid synths and gravity-defying percussion, and a barely discernible sample of someone cooing is glimpsed in snippets. Things are in flux - meanings, hopes, fears and, yes, lives.

  • ELECTRONICA

  • MIGRATION

    Bonobo

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Things become clearer in Break Apart, among a handful of downtempo tunes featuring guest vocalists. The androgynous contralto by Toronto musician-vocalist Michael Milosh, one-half of the feted Los Angeles-based R&B/electronic duo Rhye, compounds the dislocation - you can't quite place the relationship.

"I should have heard your fear/ Shame on me," Milosh sings over sampled harp, low horns and galloping drums.

The suspension continues in Surface, an equally luxurious meditation on motion and travel. "Can we get anywhere?/Paper thin paperweight/Are we close enough?" asks Nicole Miglis, frontwoman of the American indie rock band Hundred Waters, over clattering drums and synths that flutter.

This is followed by Bambro Koyo Ganda, a collaboration with New York-based Moroccan group Innov Gnawa. Green's club smoothness melds with the latter's brew of gnawa music, a ritual trance descended from Morocco's black community, comprising former slaves and soldiers who were brought from other parts of Africa. This world music transcends walls of ignorance.

Australian Nick Murphy, formerly Chet Faker, turns up on No Reason, the most obviously dancey club track here, and delivers the chorus in a heartbreaking falsetto: "And we've got no rhyme and no reason now."

For sure, words are sometimes not necessary. Green uses samples deftly to elicit unexpected insights. On Grains, he samples folk legend Pete Seeger's One Grain Of Sand, magicked into an intriguing dissertation on communion.

The same subtlety is also heard in the rapturous lead single Kerala, featuring a perfectly placed sample of soul singer Brandy going "yeh yeh yeh" in the middle of a song that loops incessantly upon itself.

Just watch its dazzling music video starring actress Gemma Arterton who is seen stumbling around a London suburb, assailed by supernatural visions, and her staccato movements repeated in a series of glitches. Stranger things indeed.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2017, with the headline 'Musings on the nomadic life'. Print Edition | Subscribe