Ninja Tune are a label with a remarkable set of artists curating their music as if it were their own flesh and blood - injecting personality and charisma into sounds that, in the past, have often felt dejected and confined to an apathetic sparseness of perhaps a lounge suite or simple background filler for social small-talk. In 2012, we had artists like Lone and newcomers too such as Slugabed demonstrating the swift and dynamic ting electronic music can often create when it's not trying to simply fill the multilayer tracks on a deck. In 2013 however, Ninja established, downtempo favourite, Bonobo returns three years after his critically-acclaimed Black Sands swept us up in a passage of trip-hop melodies, gushing vocals and production that left far more than just some faintly-tucked home installation. A visually delightful world tour and an accompanying remix album later, Bonobo is set to continue his architectural evolution in sound with Cirrus, the first single to be released off his fifth album, 'The North Borders'. And while I would stick to remaining focused on the just the music for this review, I feel it's rather fitting to talk as well about the accompanying video which, already, has given me enough reason to return to and enjoy equally as much as the first time.
Cirrus, from the word go is of a purely mechanical and sequential attitude, without coming across as physically synthetic, or perhaps - more dangerously - lifeless. Bonobo is a man who pools new life into his music and the sounds emanating here are one of a simple but giddying stylizing - percussion becoming the main driving characteristic of the music. The video sees us plonked directly into what appears to be a split between family snapshot-like nostalgia and consumerist content of particular makes and brands. The video's stitching of 50's/60's suburban life soon metamorphoses and mutates into more a quantum of avant-garde motion, collages increasingly becoming more patched and futurist to the point where all human and socio-cultural context is removed. And amidst it all, the string and swirl of percussion instruments - drums, bells, chimes, triangles - maintain that presence of a humane slightly-bumbling ease with the surreality of the video. And given the way the repetition aligns so neatly with the inclusion of the track's warming bass and flicker of background noise, the lead of looped percussion has a lot more of an effectiveness musically than it does in alignment with the visuals.
Admittedly, I've been away from Bonobo's music for more than I'd like to admit. But I'm always inclined to return, and Cirrus certainly gives me reason not only to return, but to look forward to 'The North Borders' with even more of an excitement than what I had previous. Instrumentation does shake up a bit evidently on this track, and it'd be interesting to discover if that's the case with this new album. But more importantly, how will the Englishman be able to relish in the same beauty of sound and still give us something as fresh and exciting as his previous offering? The North Borders is out April 1st - Cirrus meanwhile available for free download now via the artist's website.