the electronic-ambient revolution with bonobo

Transitioning the listener from ground level consciousness to higher planes, Bonobo releases his most experimental body of work to date.

by Milly McMahon
14 January 2017, 4:02am

Staggering out his new sound via chapter like track to track constructs, British producer and DJ Bonobo documents his transient life via LP Migration. Searching for belonging and familiarity through experimental algorithms, collaborating with musical companions Jon Hopkins, Rhye, Nick Murphy (aka Chet Faker) amongst various other vocalists on the 12 track, Ninja Tune released album, the nomadic composer engages with the concept of noise and space in an entirely original way. Writing with fresh perspective on this, his sixth studio album, disconnecting with the previously established style he has already become so celebrated for, the challenge in Migration lay with appealing to a universal audience and not just the fan base he already felt comfortable catering to.

Soaring over imagined landscapes which stimulate a feeling of higher perspective, peace and awe resonate from the music. Fusing African based polyrhythms, piano and brass with string quartets, diverse cultural references intertwine to inspire introspective moments. Steering the sound in a unique and vivacious direction, the culmination of this accomplished album feels increasingly mind expanding upon each successive listen. Bonobo's tracks speak with a confidence which is powerful and engaging. If the earth were to have a theme tune to its evolution, both temporally and geographically, it would probably sound something akin to Bonobo's Migration. Presenting the music with a full orchestra and heavily visual live show, Bonobo will once again embark on a global tour, to revisit far flung countries which have come to feel both familiar and foreign to this well seasoned traveler.

If Migration was predominantly created whilst you were travelling, what anchors your headspace into a creative space?
I don't really write music in the traditional sense of chorus, verse. It's more experimental sounding. The process comes from an experimentation with noise. l often find there's an equal benefit to being in a comfortable, well rested studio session, but also the more pressured headspace of being in an airport or working at 7am, fresh from the club with the music still ringing in your ears. I think that's as a valid an environment as a more formal set up. So l feel a lot of these tunes have come from fairly abstract reference points. There are definitely various emotional states that are unique points of reference.

Your press release details this album as focused on "The study of people and spaces," exploring how people influence each other from various points of distinctive difference. What were the moments which drew together a feeling of new ground and inspiration for you?
It's about reconnecting with feelings from having growing up. Its reconnecting with where l am, from the times l have spent with my friends and them being in some kind of unusual alien environment that's so far away from my world. It's just this idea of connection. There's lots of people l consider friends, and when you travel you find yourself, but there are these cultural analogies for recurring places that keep happening - a culture of influence of people and landscapes over time.

Are you a transient person?
Yes, very much so. In recent months l've been a bit planted on the ground and working on finishing the record and not touring as much, but yes, there was a whole year where l was living out of a suitcase, going from tour to tour, staying from Berlin to Singapore, to Brazil and then California. l was everywhere for a while and it was quite weird after 10 months. It's a unique way to spend a year.

Whenever l've travelled l've found myself affected in conflicted ways. Sometimes the new experiences inspire a path of self discovery, but at other points those situations can highlight insecurities and bring about feelings of displacement. That's definitely a thing that l have had to deal with a lot, but l think you just have to start from square one. With the stage l'm at with touring now, it's changed slightly. l have been to the venues l am playing and I'm more familiar with the creative communities existing there. It's just reconnecting with people. Its nice to have a balance of the excitement of new people and new places but with the familiarity of returning to somewhere which is hundreds of miles away and still feels familiar.

What will the visuals look like for the 2017 international tour?
This tour is going to be pretty video heavy and the live show will also have a whole band. We have brought on board some really talented live video makers so it will be very visual. Compared to previous tours, it will be a lot more of a film orientated show and a lot more visually powerful. This is a culmination of photographers, landscapes, architecture and literature. I wasn't attempting to directly reference films. It will be vital media but the inspiration is a lot broader.

Second Sun is a really emotional piece of music. How do you feel when you listen back to that track. Which specific memories or feelings does the composition inspire in you?
That was an outtake of Black Sands which l made in 2009. The first half came to fruition years ago and l didn't really know how to finish it at the time, so l sat on it for 6 years. In the process of making this record l released l knew how to finish it, l realised how to make it into the full piece.

Of the music on this album l really like the track Migration in terms of how it builds. It came from an unusual idea of building an algorithm and creating a random constellation of sounds which generated movements which in turn built other random movements into the music. I also had a pianist improvise over that, Jon Hopkins. He used that computer algorithm to improvise as a pianist so we had a pianist and a computer improvising together. In terms of the process, that was the one l was most pleased with in the way it came together and unfolded.

What's the acid test for the quality of music that will make the cut?
I want to make a record which says a certain amount of things and I selected which tracks would say it the best. I have 10 tracks which are fairly heavy and it's finding the right balance, and finding which tracks communicate what l'm trying to convey the best.

What gives you the greatest creative satisfaction? Producing or DJ'ing?
They are very different things. It's a balance. l couldn't have one without the other. l really enjoy DJing but l couldn't DJ exclusively. I couldn't produce exclusively either, that would involve spending a lot of time in isolation. But l do enjoy performing the music l create to people. It's a release for me.


Text Milly McMahon
Photography Neil Krug

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