Seasons Change: 10 Years Of Bonobo's 'Black Sands'
Ask me where I was when I first heard a particular album, and chances I wouldn’t be able to tell you. That doesn’t mean to say that certain records haven’t had a profound effect on me, it’s just the majority of those that have, have done so insidiously, over repeat listens across a period of weeks, months, or in some cases, even years.
Ask me where I was the first time I heard 'Black Sands' however, and I’d be able to tell you instantly, conjuring images of dim lights in a smoky flat, warm Polish lager and the constant sound of shaken ice from a corner in which someone was trying (and failing) to make bubble hash.
Whether it was the constant passing of joints, or the generally entertaining conversation of that night, it was the eponymous final track 'Black Sands' that first piqued my attention. From its gently plucked guitar, double bass and mournful strings, to the subtle introduction of the electronics as the track builds steadily to its conclusion, it feels traditional yet contemporary, and it was unlike anything I’d heard before.
And it turns out, unlike anything it preceded on the record.
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It was this effortless marriage of the seemingly organic and the electronic which made 'Black Sands' such an exciting prospect 10 years ago, and indeed what makes it such even now. Not just to myself, and Bonobo’s millions of fans, but to Simon Green himself.
Arriving after a period of change in Green’s life in which he moved from Brighton to London, and following a shift within the landscape of the UK’s electronic music, 'Black Sands' succeeds in bridging the gap between Bonobo’s previous album 'Days To Come' and the post-dubstep period between 2008-10.
With tracks such as ‘El Toro’ or ‘The Keeper’ exhibiting a live and easy-going sense of freneticism, one might be forgiven for assuming that more constructed tracks would feel out of sorts, yet that couldn’t be further from the truth. ‘Kiara’ for instance, for all its glitchy electronics is a subtle and welcome introduction to the record’s aesthetic. As organic as it is contrived, it feels like a microcosm of the record itself, while allowing the excitement Green felt when producing the album to manifest itself within its skittering percussion, fractured vocal track or the constantly shifting textures.
“All my records feel like a diary of the time and headspace they were made in,” Green explains “and 'Black Sands' documents this in real time for me. A transition of falling in love with beatmaking again. An appreciation of a place and time and an anticipation for what was going to happen next.”
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These feelings of freneticism, of constant forward motion, are present throughout the entirety of 'Black Sands' and quite clearly stem from those aforementioned feelings of excitement and indeed perhaps uncertainty that Green felt at the time.
It’s also perhaps the reason why 'Black Sands' as a record resonated so heavily with me when it did. The first time I heard it coincided with my first trip to Edinburgh, a city in which the natural and the man-made meet spectacularly, yet complement each other effortlessly and organically, much like the record itself. It also came at a time when a new job was opening a lot of doors, and travelling the country, leading to changes in my personal life as well.
“Seasons Change / It’ll never be the same / I hope I won’t stay the same” states the chorus of ‘Never Be the Same’, and though since that hazy evening somewhere in Leith, jobs, relationships, even myself have all changed, 'Black Sands' is still there, just as elegant, just as exciting, and just as rewarding as ever.
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'Black Sands' 10th anniversary edition is out now.
Words: Dave Beech
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