Bonobo's 'Fragments' Is an Inspiring Meld of Organic and Electronic
Published Jan 13, 2022From the moment Fragments begins, you know you've arrived. Where is of little consequence — it's certainly not bearing of any physical location. Rather, it's a place of spiritual reflection and familiar reverie that British producer and DJ Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has carefully refined for over two decades. From early days as a downtempo solo project to becoming a worldwide headliner and five-time Grammy nominee, Bonobo has become synonymous with some of today's best emotive dance music.
Fragments is Green's seventh album and follows 2017's wildly successful Migration. Recorded over 2020 and 2021, the album took shape during periods of intense isolation and personal turbulence. Green sought solitude among nature to reignite his inspiration, reaching out to other artists like Miguel Atwood-Ferguson to add to the album's rich texture (see the string arrangement for opener "Polyghost").
The aptly named Fragments was born, featuring collaborations with Jordan Rakei, Jamila Woods, Joji, and Kadhja Bonet among others (a particular delight is the use of harpist Lara Somogyi's samples throughout). Oscillating seamlessly between downtempo and dance, Green's music continues to inspire introspection and contemplation among listeners. It's hard to imagine a world in which this latest release will not garner the same critical acclaim as its predecessor.
The most awe-inducing moment of Fragments arrives with "Otomo," featuring O'Flynn. With little access to a real dancefloor, Green somehow manages to bottle the magic of a rave through its bass-heavy breakdown and pulsating energy. Most notably, the six-minute masterpiece samples a Bulgarian choir, elevating the dance track to anthemic proportions.
Similarly, "Age of Phase," "Rosewood" and "Closer" hold dance floor potential, while "From You," "Tides" and "Day by Day" elicit Bonobo's classic roots. In particular, Bonet's vocals on "Day By Day," as well as the elegiac saxophone, are immediately reminiscent of Andreya Triana's liquid gold on 2010's Black Sands. It closes the album with the hopeful refrain, "Inch by inch, day by day / We'll make this a better place." In this way, Fragments charts the ebb and flow of our collective struggle and perseverance, choosing to end in optimism.
Though Green excels at the many production-heavy elements, such as stitching together the perfect loop or drum beat, he remains unchallenged when it comes to his ability to create organic sound that is at once full-bodied, warm, and filled with textures from around the world. Bonobo's growth, too, across the past two decades has seen a natural and consistent progression, each record building beautifully on the last. Fragments is no exception. It is an album to find love again; to reignite creativity; to regain hope; to find connection. (Ninja Tune)