BEST OF CULTURE 2022: Day 7 – Bonobo

Day 7 of our Cultural Advent Calendar, where we count down the highlights of 2022 day by day until Christmas and beyond. It’s the last day of our favorite songs of the year… Today: Bonobo.

I have to admit that although I am an avid listener of all things electro, trip hop and downtempo (with some of my personal favorites being Flume, Disclosure, Massive Attack and more Fred…), the music of British musician/producer Simon Green , better known by his stage name Bonobo, had never caught my full attention.

But 2022 changed all that, with the release of his latest and seventh studio album ‘Fragments’.

The 12-song disc, released earlier this year, is a deeply emotional, cathartic and sprawling work, ranging from melancholic and meditative soundscapes to hard-hitting tunes purpose-built for the dance floor.

Green said the majority of the album was written and produced during the COVID-19 pandemic when everyone was forced to self-isolate. It was during this time that the 46-year-old producer found inspiration in the solo hikes and camping trips he took in the California wilderness.

It’s clear that this connection to nature coupled with a longing for a post-COVID time shaped the core feeling and vibe of the entire album.

British musician Bonobo performs during his concert at the Sziget Festival in Budapest – Balaz Mohai/AP

The beautifully textured, organic, warm rhythms and orchestral arrangements in this project sound absolutely gorgeous from start to finish and require to be played with good quality headphones or speakers.

Bonobo’s masterfully produced instrumentals are accompanied by a number of wonderful collaborations, including New Zealand-Australian musician and vocalist Jordan Rakei’s smooth and soulful vocals on “Shadows”, and the surprisingly unexpected appearance of Glimpse of Us singer Joji on the track “From You”.

A defining feature of the album is Chicago songwriter and poet Jamila Woods, whose sublime voice works so well on ‘Tides.

We won’t be dry soon, here come the tides‘ sings Woods, encapsulating the flow and album artwork of ‘Fragments’.

It’s an incredibly moving track (probably my favorite on the entire album) and seems to get better and better with every listen.

Just as brilliant as ‘Tides’ is ‘Otomo’, which was produced with the help of groundbreaking British dance music producer O’Flynn.

It’s one of the hardest-hitting tracks on the entire album. It begins with an intricate, bouncy drum break followed by the introduction of an awe-inspiring Bulgarian choral sample. This instrumentation gradually builds and builds until it finally falls apart.

And let me tell you… this thing EXPIRES.

I didn’t get to see Bonobo perform live this year, but I can only imagine the impact this song would have had on the festival audience.

While ‘Fragments’ might be viewed by some as overly pleasant, confident and unimaginatively experimental, I think it’s an incredibly lucid and moving body of work, from a producer I can’t wait to hear more about.

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