In his fourth studio album, London “trip hop” artist Bonobo finally produces jazz-inspired tunes for people who don’t spend their nights slamming poetry in dark cafes. The upbeat drum solos blended with strains from an electric guitar are amazingly unpretentious and easy to listen to.
Released March 23, “Black Sands” channels the smooth downtempo sounds of Bonobo’s last album, “Days to Come” (2006), but has a significantly brighter,
“Black Sands” is still a mellow coffee-shop album. Yet it incorporates cymbals, captivating salsa beats and Andreya Triana’s breathy vocals to create songs that make the listener feel both thoughtful and eager.
Bonobo, or Simon Green when he’s offstage, released his first song in 1999 and his first album, “Animal Magic,” in 2001. He’s best known for his drum-heavy, relaxed music, like in “Days to Come,” the lead single from his last album, but “Black Sands” moves beyond the drumbeats. It’s all about the mix.
The album opens with a brief instrumental introduction, entitled “Prelude,” appropriately enough. The violin melody at the beginning sounds like old Irish music before it blends into a more modern ending using notes from a piano and wind chimes.
The CD’s next track, “Kiara,” combines the sounds of violins and electric guitars with digitally produced sounds to create a song that is bright and joyful, and thankfully not chilled out at all. It’s somewhere in between Beethoven and bubblegum pop, if such a place exists. The high notes hint at female vocals and the percussion sounds like human hands clapping, communicating a sense of youth and adventure. Perhaps now is the best time to see the world, perhaps tomorrow we will lace up our shoes and set out into the unknown. But in the meantime, let’s just enjoy the moment.
One of the songs, “El Toro,” begins with wind instruments set against a background of light drum and cymbal beats and ends with a smooth salsa rhythm. I found myself turning up the volume about 10 seconds into the song. Of all the songs on “Black Sands,” this one was the only one that made me want to dance.
Triana shows off her vocals on three songs, “Eyesdown,” “The Keeper,” and “Stay the Same.” Of the three, “Stay the Same” is the most memorable. It’s pensive and smooth, the perfect song to listen to when you’re alone in your pajamas at the end of a long and
eventful night out.
The album’s namesake track, “Black Sands,” is the perfect daydreaming music — hopeful and uncertain at the same time, with light whimsical trumpet notes gliding over a steady piano background. However, at six minutes and 49 seconds, the song overstays its welcome. It doesn’t change much from beginning to end, leaving the listener bored and ready to stop daydreaming
after four minutes.
A more upbeat song, “We Could Forever,” sounds like a grown-up version of “Under the Sea” from The Little
Mermaid. Its bouncy jazz beats conjure up images of dancing fish and mermaids. At four minutes and 20 seconds, “We Could Forever” is the perfect length, and it’s the brightest song on the album.
Each of Bonobo’s new albums surpasses his last effort and this is especially true for “Black Sands.” With its expert blend of chill drum solos and spunky instrumentals, “Black Sands” is a step up from “Days to Come,” which is saying something in and of itself. If Bonobo manages to produce an album in the next few years that tops “Black Sands,” his name may soon be synonymous with beat-heavy jazz.