Bonobo – ‘Fragments’ review: veteran dance don offers a richly rewarding start to the year

Simon Green’s seventh album under this moniker is his most engaging in a decade: soothing, energetic and just right for the current moment

There’s a particular sort of music that thrives in months like these, and it’s often Bonobo’s. Now that the festivities have fizzled out and all the big shots – Adele, Ed Sheeran, ABBAhave had their fill, scrappy upstarts are chancing their luck at Number One and thoughtful, meditative music has a chance to shine. Electronic musician Simon Green’s decision to share his seventh album ‘Fragments’ in January – almost five years to the day of his previous, ‘Migration’ – feels pointed; the month’s slower pace encourages you to let an album as richly rewarding as this envelop you completely.

In any case, Brighton-born, LA-based Green may still land his first chart-topper in the UK. His last album, released a decade-and-half into his career, was his most commercially successful work yet and ‘Fragments’ has similar momentum and potential; this is the most engaging record Green has released since 2010’s ‘Black Sands’ – it is light, airy and remarkably well pieced together.

Much like his contemporaries, such as Welsh dance don Kelly Lee Owens, he was influenced by a period of stillness after years of touring as a DJ and live performer, but he endeavoured to remain adventurous, planning solo trips into nature in California and beyond. When he emerges from the thickets tightening around the highlight ‘Otomo’, he proudly boasts of the type of bassy drops and hooks last heard on 2014’s rich ‘Flashlight’ EP. Likewise, the restlessness of ‘Closer’ and ‘Sapien’ appear to evoke that of a newcomer finding their feet, not that of a name as established as his own; the innovation and risk suits him.

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Where some of his previous feather-light ballads – such as 2017’s ‘Second Sun’ – were prone to dissipating like hot breath on a frigid, sunny day, on ‘Fragments’ they’re splendidly constructed, holding their own against the beefier arrangements and thriving in their own wonderful ways. Both Chicago-based singer Jamila Woods (‘Tides’) and Kadhja Bonet (‘Day by Day’) are remarkably locked into the arrangements, their serene vocals responding and chiming well with the hues that blossom around them.

The desire right now might be to banish the January blues head-on with immediate musical rushes, but you’ll be just as fulfilled taking a deep breath and immersing yourself in an album as charming as ‘Fragments’. Come spring and summer, when this album will evolve once more and thrive in clubs and festival fields, it’ll be enriching all over again.

Details

Bonobo - FragmentsRelease date: January 14

Record label: Ninja Tune

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