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A Magazine for Sheffield

Bonobo Fragments

Bonobo's excellent seventh album evidences a masterful restraint that elevates subtle musical nuances to new heights.

Released: 14 January 2022

It's safe to say that Simon Green – aka British-born and LA-based musician Bonobo – has come a long way from the trip-hop aesthetic of Animal Magic, his first album released (somewhat incredibly) 22 years ago.

New album Fragments provides ambient world electronica shocks and surprises aplenty, not least with the superbly chosen roster of six collaborators across its twelve tracks. These include the weightless benefaction of Japanese singer-songwriter Joji on ‘From You’ and renowned Ninja Tune stablemate Jordan Rakei providing heavyweight verse-chorus contributions on ‘Shadows’.

There are three further stand-out collaborations worthy of metaphorical hat doffing. First up is O'Flynn, whose percussive African-influenced house roots bear fruit on the wonderfully rhythmic ‘Otomo’, a track that tailspins off into a syncopated morse code-like chord punctuation. ‘Tides’ features Chicago-based singer-songwriter Jamilia Woods, and while the song ebbs and flows in typical Bonobo fashion, Jamilia's bar-raising, sinuous vocals add a bittersweet harmony to the album’s themes of water and cleansing.

Finally, closer ‘Day By Day’ has Kadhja Bonet, the Californian classically trained musician, providing a restrained vocal that’s almost too much to bear: "I know you can hear me / You don't want it this way / But dark is the middle / And the walls are still wet clay". The song cries out for (and gets) a silky jazz accompaniment that fits like a velvet glove.

Bonobo isn't afraid to let each song – especially those with collaborators – have its rein, but there's no doubt as to who is the master in terms of both restraint and direction. Fragments is a great example of his progress and development to new heights of controlled emotion. Don't you monkey with the monkey.