Music Review: Migration by Bonobo

Photo retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes when you listen to an album the music just gets stuck in your head forever. This is not one of those albums. In fact, most of the melodies, on an individual level, are quite forgettable. But Migration does accomplish what it was designed to do, which has little to do with producing hot single tracks. The album takes the listener on a journey to and through another realm for an hour-long, majestic experience.

That said, it’s pretty good casual homework time background music too.

Bonobo, otherwise known as Simon Green, is a British producer and DJ based in Los Angeles. He released his first album in 2000, but he began producing the style of music that he creates today with Black Sands in 2010. With that release, he began his growth from an underground, little-known producer to the underground, better-known artist he is today.

Migration was released on January 13th of this year and has so far peaked at number five in the UK’s charts.

Bonobo’s recent music is best described as somewhere in between trip hop and downtempo. Basically, it’s electronic music with relatively slow beats including soul, funk, and jazz influences. But it’s not just electronic music – the producer blends in several live instruments, from harps and bells to violins and horns. Most of the tracks are instrumental, but a few are collaborations with various vocalists, and all of these lyrical tracks stand out.

Most of the songs on the album begin with simple looped melodies and baselines. Through the course of a track, these samples are twisted and complicated by the slow addition of new layers. Soon enough, each track evolves into its own complex orchestral atmosphere.

With half of the tracks clocking in at more than five minutes long, the album isn’t really meant for impatient listeners. But serious and intense listening is certainly not necessary to enjoy the music.

The baselines are strong enough that it can be danced to, but the melodies are calm enough for the music to feel appropriate in clothing stores. It’s perplexing.

To sample the album, try listening to “Kerala” and “No Reason.” “Kerala” is the most popular single on the album, and, combined with its impressively creative music video, it’s not hard to see why. “Kerala” creates the most mesmerizing and exotic ambiance of any song on the album. “No Reason” is another standout for its haunting mix of collaborator Chet Faker’s vocals with a chilling and hypnotic backdrop.

Still, Migration is all about creating an atmosphere, and the best way to experience this atmosphere is in its whole. So stream the album and give it a try. It’s worth it.