But they also got us wondering.
Lead single ‘Kerala’ is a picture of perfect production. It unveiled the inspirations from nature that in sound and name lead the album; the track being named after the Indian state where thousands of birds migrate to signal the start of winter.
‘Break Apart’ took the central rhythm and loop from ‘Kerala’ and brought it into more sombre territory. The song followed the same line of production, but drifting vocals from Rhye and sparing piano work make it a more sober listen.
So, was the album going to be based around this irresistible loop throughout, ebbing and flowing from major to minor via basslines, strings and piano chords?
Well… no. ‘No Reason’, the final single before the release of the album, told us that much. The seven-minute electronic epic features Nick Murphy (aka Chet Faker), and it’s probably the only song on Migration that isn’t instantly identifiable as a Bonobo track.
‘No Reason’ pulses an electronic rhythm that feels more industrial than naturalistic, yet there are still hints – a subtle nod to that same loop from the previous singles near the halfway mark. It’s a terrific track, but being so different to the opening two offerings, how was it going to tie together?
So, full faith in the man himself, I opened up the review stream of Migration and waited for the magic to happen. And sure enough, there it was. 12 tracks tied together with a perfect amalgamation of organic cuttings, intricate instrumentals and electronic backings well worthy – and there’s not much higher praise at this point – of a place alongside the rest of Bonobo’s esteemed back catalogue.
Opening number ‘Migration’ features Jon Hopkins on piano. Extreme serenity builds into a natural wonder carried with electricity and embedded with jazz-fusion. A euphoric start to the record.
‘Outlier’ is a piece of standalone art, a lengthy banger created from intricate cuttings of various sounds, building over lengthy loops and subtle shifts in sound that demand attention.
It feels devilish to group them into one paragraph (word counts dictate) but ‘Grains’, ‘Second Sun’, ‘Surface’ and ‘Bambro Koyo Ganda’ flow so perfectly through one another that it’s near-impossible not to get lost in the music.
And yet, the transition that takes place from the first of those songs to the fourth is vast. It’s a journey from gradual and pensive to slow-building explosions of sound, expertly crafted with strings and mind-massaging synths that crucially never overwhelm. A wonderful arc.
‘Ontario’ is almost ominous at times; atmospheric with a tinge of wanderlust that bridges the gap to ‘No Bother’.
Closers ‘7th Sevens’ and ‘Figures’ play out the record with an air of subtlety and intricate instrumental work.
Every song on the album would work as a single, and yet each is different enough to make the 12 tracks an enlightening journey. With so many different sounds, cuts and loops going into each track, for each to compliment and never overpower, and for the record to still come across as at times beautifully minimalistic, is nothing short of genius.
It’s a record that will appease and delight Bonobo’s huge cult following; capable of soundtracking a relaxing stroll but worthy of a listen in isolation in front of the best speakers you own, and certain to hold your attention in any environment.
It’s an album that confirms that Bonobo does not create from template. He innovates through intelligence, ingenuity and draws expertly from inspiration.