SIMON GREEN has hit a serious stride. With Black Sands, the fourth full-length album under the Bonobo moniker, Green hones in on a signature sound, builds on a history of consistent improvement, and innovates in unexpected and ambitious ways—basically all the things that have kept him relevant as a musician for the past decade.
Green set the bar at incredible heights a decade ago with the first Bonobo release, Animal Magic. At a time when down-tempo music was in such demand that any slowed-down beat on a loop would suffice, Bonobo introduced true musicianship and purpose into a mostly repetitive and pointless genre designed just for "chilling out." The melodies of Bonobo weren't just background music for bong hits, they were soundtracks for earnest contemplation. The songs told a story, and these complex stories unfolded in different ways for each listener.
Though nothing seemed likely to trump his debut, Green continued to produce eloquent works of meaningful beat-driven jazz, writing and recording most of the song elements himself. His composition is impressively intricate considering he is a musician that lacks any formal training.
"I started out making sounds on guitar or piano, then I got interested in the double bass, ukulele, mandolin, harp, vibraphone... I mean, if something makes a noise, you can basically make a melody on it. I'm not a virtuoso on anything, but I can make a tune come out of anything," says Green.
On Black Sands, he shines brighter than ever, extending his use of eclectic instruments, sharpening his beat-making skills and adding upon the live show. "We needed more people on tour because there are more sounds—flute, clarinet, vocals," says Green. "I didn't want to compromise, so we have seven people, including Andreya [Triana]."
The addition of Triana marks the first time Green's worked extensively with a vocalist. Her sultry, heavy-hearted tone is the perfect complement to the emotion in his songwriting, and a great example of his ability to add new ideas to his music while still keeping a signature sound.
Green sums up his progression, "I added a vocalist and rediscovered a love of beat making. Black Sands is echoing back to old UK garage, but it's also contemporary London bass line music. It's still melodic and melancholy, which I don't think anyone else has done, so I think that validates it."