Black Sands

25.03.10 Words by: Charlie Jones

Ever since hearing ‘Black Sands’, I haven’t stopped playing it. If you thought ‘There is Love in You’ (read the review here) was unbeatable, think again. Okay, TiLiY certainly has something special about it. Totally relevant but with one foot in the past, it sent out the message that there is more to Electronica in 2010 than Dubstep derivatives, sure – but does it come as close to perfection as this? I don’t think so. Four Tet deserves kudos for soaking up his musical surroundings, borrowing from his peers and bringing something new to it. But, while Bonobo may not have metamorphosised, as such, he has certainly refined himself, drilled down and tightened the creative strings and made an album that is brilliantly accomplished – an exercise in electronic sophistication jam-packed with soul.

After appearing on Ninja Tune in 2001 with ‘Animal Magic’, it wasn’t long until Bonobo AKA Simon Green became one of those revered guys in Electronica. Four Tet had been around for a little while. Aphex Twin was “The Jesus” and DJ Shadow was God. Coldcut were too street for the other weedy white kids and Cinematic Orchestra just sat in the corner making really cool (but clever) Jazz music – and then there was Bonobo. He was the bright (very chilled) kid in the class. While Dr D James and Mr Shadow were off in their ivory towers setting the syllabus, Green was too smug for Sir Hebden’s blackboard scribbled with convoluted sonic equations. Bonobo’s sound was always a bit more understated. It was the stuff to read a book to or accompany candle-lit baths. Lounge-hop was what they called it… wasn’t it?

Anyway, one of the best things about the second half of the noughties was that Dance music went a bit mental. You know what people say about full moons – that people have sudden bursts of erractic behaviour that can only be put down to cosmological forces combining in a single moment in time (and I don’t mean werewolves)… no? Well, this is kind of what happened to Electronic music during the nougthies. A half-decade of really restrained and intellectual studies into sound production – ‘Endtroducing’, ‘Mezzanine’, ‘Rounds’ – made way for explosions of colour on the electronic rictor scale. 2ManyDJs put together anything and everything. Ed Banger went all spazzy with electro-synths and then there was Dubstep, Bass… Party was the word.

All this means hammer and tongs on the dancefloor. This is still going on and long may it live. But one thing that got a little relegated during this time was electronic production whittled down to its finer, more jazzy points (with the exception of some Techno/Deep House and its minimal derivatives). It could still be found in Skream and other examples of brain-searching Dubstep at the tail end of the noughties but not without a touch of gloom. But where did those double bass lines go? Jazzy cymbals that you can get away with playing in your Dad’s car. Big noise is great if it is midnight in a Hackney Warehouse on a Friday. But what about those long baths… or when your mum comes to visit…? What then?

And now, as the initial mushroom cloud of party dust settles, like a hoard of termites scared off by a nuclear storm, the lounging trip-hoppers are gradually re-surfacing (maybe they were asleep), rejuvenated and ready to go. Already in 2010, we’ve already had Four Tet, Flying Lotus’ album is coming in May and now we have ‘Black Sands’. And new producers too, just listen to Kyle Hall (interviewed here) or Floating Points (also interviewed here). It sounds like the sun is rising.

One of the many charms of this album – aside from Andreya Triana’s voice (wow!) – is its orchestral majesty – clarinets, brass, strings and flutes flood Green’s musical canvas. Kiara (Prelude) sounds like the soundtrack to a dainty film shot in a Chinese forest, interrupted by a tripped-up 4×4 beat in Kiara. Kong twinkles over punching drum loops and the ultimate title track brims with tearful pathos. There’s Freeform, bass-tinged Salsa, passionate eye-to-eye Tango, there’s Gypsy, Catalan, French influences – music that is really ambitious and never strays out of focus. Bonobo has been away and he has been working hard. Sharpening his tools ready to craft Electronic Jazz music that sounds fresh, complete and timeless – and at times a little overwhelming.

‘Black Sands’ is out 29 March

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