The Northern Bored-ers
It’s been three long years since we’ve had a full-length album from Brit down temp DJ and producer Simon Green, also known as Bonobo. His 2010 release, Black Sands, sold 150,000 copies worldwide and was hailed by many as “a masterpiece.” So… no pressure for his next LP, The Northern Borders! The album will be released by Ninja Tune Records and features vocal collaborations with up-and-coming jazz singer Szjerdene, American singer-songwriter Erykah Badu, Grey Reverend (Cinematic Orchestra), and Cornelia (Portico Quartet). With so much talent on one album, The Northern Borders should be on par, if not better than, Black Sands.
Sadly, though, The Northern Borders falls short of the standards set before it. The album lacks the diversity and fun, experimental feeling that made Black Sands such an audible feast to take part in. The album as a whole is extremely one-note with mellow jazz beats just below heavy electronic fuzz—perfect for a night in, but terrible for the listener who wishes to be engaged. There are bright spots to be found on the album, particularly in the second half of its thirteen tracks. “Antenna” provides some much needed light-hearted relief from the solemn tones of the rest of the LP. The collaborations also help this album be something worth checking out. Szjerdene, Erykah, and Cornelia add soul and emotion to the electronic wonderlands they inhabit, the Billie Holidays for our plugged-in age.
Overall, The Northern Borders is far from a bad album. It just runs the same problem many follow-up records do: it’s just too close to greatness to ever surpass it. Where Bonobo’s previous albums built steadily up on one another until Black Sands, The Northern Borders drops the ideal down a notch, but also allows Bonobo room to continue to grow in the future.