Review: Bonobo – Black Sands (Ninja Tune)

Another new electronic review for you that I wrote for Blurt. Bonobo’s latest smells like mid-’90s acid jazz, but it tastes much, much better.

Bonobo (presumably known as Simon Green to his mother), has crafted a triumph of a new album. On Black Sands, the producer/musician has combined the sounds of forward-thinking electronic music and moody acid jazz into an orgy of slinky live and programmed instruments. These aren’t the typical downbeat instrumentals you used to hear in the background of VW commercials. This is exciting, vibrant, electric production that doesn’t necessarily require a close listen, but rewards you if you do decide to pay special attention.

The album’s opener, “Kiara,” (it is actually preceded by “Kiara Prelude,” but it’s really all one song) features beautifully cinematic strings flaring up over an icy electro beat, a perfect example of what Bonobo is able to achieve here. From there, “Kong” takes a decidedly more organic approach, with a fairly traditional jazz construction anchored by a swinging breakbeat.

Let’s stop right here with the descriptions, because without listening to the actual music, this kind of sounds like run-of-the-mill mid’90s trip-hop. It isn’t.Black Sands, whether frantically intertwining guitar and bass riffs (“We Could Forever”) or taking a breather with the excellent singer Andreya Triana doing her thing over a smoky vamp, is a success. Kudos to Bonobo for being able to resurrect acid jazz, rightfully written off by many as boring and dead, and breathe some vibrant new life into it.

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