Album titles are regularly throwaway decisions for artists—often more of a catchy phrase than a meaningful comment. But for Bonobo’s latest record, the name is paramount. Introducing twelve hotly-anticipated tracks, it’s no coincidence that the moniker, Migration, appeared after an intensive period of touring.
“After being on the road for the last album, I wanted the chance to relax, and to find a home somewhere that was a bit more chilled,” the electronic artist, born Simon Green, tells the Straight from a tour stop in Columbia, Missouri. “I spent a lot of time living nowhere. My schedule was so heavy it wasn’t worth paying rent anywhere, so I just moved from hotels, Airbnbs, tour buses, and airports. Eventually, I was spending a lot of time in L.A., and I found a really good creative community there. It felt like the right thing to settle down for a bit, to take a moment to reset.”
Much of Migration, fittingly, was written in transit. Switching to Ableton production software, Green traded long days in the studio for a small laptop and headphones, creating his rich and textured arrangements with just a mouse and a keyboard. The choice to craft songs during his downtime on the road opened new avenues of creativity for the producer. Travelling with a recorder, Green captured hundreds of acoustic samples, building a bank of eccentric sounds that formed the basis of the record.
“There’s a lot of different nuances on the album,” he says. “Things like an airboat that I taped in New Orleans, a tumble dryer, and fireworks that I recorded on the Fourth of July in L.A. I didn’t have anything to do that day because I’m an Englishman in America, so I was just at home in the studio and thought I’d capture the explosions. I slowed them down, and used them as a sound-bed for some songs. Being in different environments transforms the music—different settings change your mindset, and the records you produce can vary in that way.”
“Mindset” is an important concept for Green’s new record. Revealing that the album was written during a period of bereavement, the LP represents a moment of deep self-evaluation for the producer. More than just a description of Green’s physical movements, his choice to name the record Migration has just as much resonance for his emotional journey.
“There was a lot of stuff that was happening on the back of the last tour,” he recalls. “My dad passed away, and I turned 40. I think you can delay everything when you’re moving, and then when you stop, all the dust settles and everything hits you at once. A lot of these more complex thoughts started happening at the same time. The more beat-heavy tunes on the album were made while I was in transit, and the slower, more introspective stuff happened when I stopped.”
It’s no surprise, then, that Green’s new record dives into new territory. Despite being famed for his inventive drum lines, the rich guitar and piano soundscapes of “Second Son” are underscored solely by soft and melancholic violins, omitting his trademark rhythms—a first for the artist. “Grains”, too—a slow, rolling piece driven by sombre vocal snippets—creates an air of poignancy, while even the more upbeat “7th Sevens” mixes tropical percussion with elegiac minor chords.
Green’s sound, however, has always covered a broad spectrum from quiet and atmospheric tracks to upbeat floor fillers—a fact that still holds true for Migration. Creating two shows out of that dual identity, the producer is set to perform in Vancouver by playing his softer compositions onstage with six instrumentalists, and lighting up one of the city’s premier clubs with an underground DJ set.
“There are some people that only engage with club music, and there are some who are into the peaceful end of my catalogue and who are not nightclub people,” Green says. “That’s totally cool, but I’m definitely about both. The DJ show is about playing less of my own music, and curating tracks to make a good party. The live show is about representing the record in person in an inventive and engaging way.
“I’ve always had a very wide-ranging palate,” he continues. “Even when I was living in Brighton, or anywhere, there were very diverse sounds. Eclecticism is everything.”
Bonobo plays his live show at the Commodore on Tuesday (May 23) and Wednesday (May 24). His DJ set is at Celebrities on Wednesday (May 24).
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