Making intriguing, engrossing ambient electronic music these days is getting increasingly difficult. English DJ Bonobo finds no trouble in doing so, however, with his sixth record Migration full of powerful, otherwordly tracks.
Bonobo isn't one to stay rooted in one genre's elements. He takes ambient and electronic music and makes it his own. The first track, the title track 'Migration,' rings with a familiar vibe: the body of the song is largely a light vocal played above dreamy pianos and various synths, but it also features live drums instead of a boring programmed beat. The song starts off beautifully, as well, the pianos building into the more chilled, warm track. Strings also make an appearance, and later come in as a major part of the record.
The orchestras on Migration are very powerful. Their influence becomes more apparent as the record progresses, and by the end they are arguably more important than the electronic elements. If you missed them, you'll be taken back by 'Ontario' with its beautiful string section. The song kicks off with new elements, a sitar-esque sound playing above the dark, urgent synths before a beat kicks in with a thick bass synth. By the end of the track, big, blaring horns and strings accompany the song's deep synths. Closing track 'Figures' also has a powerful string section with it too. The song starts with a looped female vocal and progresses pretty calmly without much to notice, but then a truly beautiful orchestra kicks in and takes the track out on its own.
There's a lot going on in Migration besides the synths that make it memorable still. The sweet and calming vibes of ambient music build the entire record, 'Break Apart' featuring Rhye probably being the most true to the genre's basic principles. The album isn't afraid of taking risks, though. 'Outlier,' for example, lives up to its name by featuring a much more vigorous momentum and pretty jagged synths that build gently while still maintaining a pretty aggressive drive in comparison to other tracks. It all leads up to a very crystalline ending that contrasts the majority of the song, sending you into a deep, empty cavern.
That same cavernous vibe is explored more in the barren soundscape of 'Second Sun.' This title, much like its title would suggest, sounds like it takes place on a distant planet elsewhere in the universe. A lone traveler walks through an empty, dusty landscape on the surface of an alien planet as two suns shine overhead, and this song is the soundtrack of that. It hauntingly moves with dreamy guitars and beautiful synths and strings all pairing together to create a powerful image. Bonobo keeps it on Earth, as well, with the Indian vibes explored in 'Bambro Koyo Ganda.' Vocals in 'Surface' takes you on an exploration of yourself, the pure vocals and its harmonies ringing above a constantly evolving beat and wonderful synths and guitars.
Bonobo is here challenging the very essence of ambient music in Migration. There are few moments on this record that don't capture your attention. He explores different instruments and even live instrumentation instead of pigeonholing himself to synths and noises. Migration may not be a perfect album, but it's certainly an indicator of one that may be.
Favorite Tracks: Second Sun, Ontario, Surface
Least Favorite Track: Kerala
Rating: 80 / 100
Buy or listen to Migration here: