Bonobo Presents FRAGMENTS Album Review — Contemplative and Organic Electronic Music

Near the midpoint of Fragments is the song Closer. It begins with gentle, distinct electronic snares, high hats, woozy synths, and bass kicks to lay the foundation of the rhythm. Soon, pieces of what sounds like a more organic instrument enters — perhaps a sort of kalimba — along with the songs key vocal sample which begins to sing in a reverberated, soulful tone: 

Closer to you

Closer to you

British musician Simon Green, also known as Bonobo, produced and released his seventh album, Fragments, during the COVID-19 pandemic while based in Los Angeles. As Bonobo, Green operates in the electronic music landscape, producing music in various styles and subgenres. He orchestrates music of a calm, ambient nature with elements of funk, soul, jazz and R&B, with lots of sampling and synthesizer use.

BONOBO Uses A Range Of Sounds To Create A Diverse Listening Experience

Fragments has a diverse mix of ambient tracks, vocal-sample heavy tracks, and traditionally structured songs with many featured vocals. The first of which is Shadows, featuring Jordan Rakei. The song begins with a simple drum pattern, accompanied by a rubbery bass line. A choppy keyboard riff rounds out the rhythm section as the song introduces both quick and accentuated synthesizers as well as strings. In this song and throughout the album, the stringed instruments, such as violins or cellos, often have an ambiguous quality that, in this writer's opinion, make it difficult at times to determine whether the sounds are electronically produced or truly recorded live. 

This mix of the digital and organic is seen in the more ambient or heavily sampled songs as well. The song Otomo has a familiar beginning filled with electronic drums, bass and mood settings synths, but it also uses a distinct melody — first played by a saxophone or perhaps another brass-type instrument whose true origins remain ambiguous. As the song progresses, the melody morphs into a sample of a large chorus singing. The timbre of the group sounds like what you might hear at a sports stadium, when the crowds chant in unison to cheer on their teams. 

The songs on the album featuring guest vocalists tend to stick to a traditional verse-chorus structure, and the sample heavy tracks like Otomo are structured more segmentally, transforming and phasing into many distinct musical ideas. Other songs however, lean more heavily in an ambient direction. The song, Elysian, begins with electronic arpeggios, what sounds like a live upright bass, strings, and gentle wind-chime-like embellishments. The song does not necessarily evolve to new sections or movements, instead Bonobo chooses to slowly layer organic and electronic sounds, such as percussion on wood-based instruments. He then quietly deconstructs the song back to silence by removing layers as subtly as he added them. 

One of the final guest vocal lead songs is From You featuring Joji. The instrumental has all of Bonobo’s trademark sounds, and Joji adds subdued and gentle — but still catchy — melodies that build to a chorus of Joji’s vocals, layering and harmonizing on top of each other to create a sound that this reviewer finds particularly hypnotizing. 

Fragments’ creates a consistently soft ambience throughout the album's fifty-one minute runtime. Its wide palette of natural and synthesized sounds also creates plenty of diversity for the listener. This album is for fans of electronic, easy going music, and listeners who seek light background music that still utilizes a diverse range of timbres.


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For more information, visit Bonobo's website.

Images courtesy of Grant Spanier

Ricardo Rico

About the Author: Ricardo Rico

Ricardo thinks it's unfortunate that there’s not enough time in the day or in a lifetime to see all the great works of art that have been made, are being made, and will be made. Luckily, this does mean that there’s always a new and surprising piece of art to be found wherever you look. That’s why he’s constantly adding new films, albums, books, and occasionally, video games to his list of pieces to check out. He likes to create just as much, whether it's with a camera, laptop or guitar, and is always working on shooting another film or writing another screenplay or song. This keeps his mind sharp, while soccer, weightlifting and walks with his dog give him the endurance to keep searching for the next great work he’s yet to discover.

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