REVIEW: Fabric presents Bonobo

As a Northerner, I can be forgiven for knowing little about what happens South of the border. Fabric nightclub is an unknown quantity, in that respect. Although they are renowned as one of central London’s most iconic clubs, their existence has flown completely under my radar. Yet, despite their somewhat troubled (and at times tragic) history, they have showcased some of the best established and emerging artists under the independent banner of FabricLive. With their latest venture fabric Presents, they are once again showing the world that they are still very much the front-runners for exhibiting the best in house talent.

Even in deepest, darkest Yorkshire, the name Bonobo is synonymous with the smooth, trip-hop aesthetic stylings of the legendary musician, producer, and DJ, Simon Green. Green’s influence on the electronic music scene over the past 20 years has been unprecedented. From the release of his debut album Animal Magic in 2000, Bonobo has been consistently redefining the boundaries of the experimental landscape, taking his day-dreamy-summer-day vibes to fresh, ethereal heights with Black Sands in 2010 (Kiara, Kong, El Toro) and The North Borders in 2013 (Emkay, Cirrus, Towers).

With the subsequent release of the long awaited sixth studio album Migration in 2017, Green’s reputation for producing the very best in ambient has transcended all expectation. Break Apart, Outlier, Bambro Koya Ganda, Ontario and Kerala; these tracks represent a migration through Green’s nomadic life as an artist on the road. And although not technically the next self-styled Bonobo album, there are other-worldly elements at play here that are distinctive. The fabric Presents Bonobo set showcases 74 seamless minutes of instrumental collaboration with a whole host of trail-blazing musicians/producers/magic-makers, including the likes of R.Lyle, Olsen, Âme and Throwing Snow. And if that isn’t enough for your synapses, the album also includes a brand-new Bonobo track – Ibrik – and 2 unique mixes of Flicker and Boston Common.

The Presents album starts on a light and airy note with Flicker, in true Bonobo style, before breezing into Boston Common. This track is more upbeat and has some life about it – adding another layer to what is inevitably a slow-burner of an album. Several tracks later and we’re onto the main event, Ibrik.

Described by Fabric as ‘an immersive dose of broken beats and delicate melodies that explore the interplay between a regular western 4-4 beat pattern and the plaintive play of middle eastern instrumentals’ this is (in other words) a series of beats on repeat. Ibrik is one of those rare tracks that is perfectly embodied by the album art – its musicality is a collection of cuboids surrounded by gravity defying spheres. This is a far cry from the sounds we have come to associate with Bonobo’s previous albums, each of which seemingly explores the conflict between nature and this brave ‘new’ world we find ourselves in with an almost elemental quality. And whilst this is somewhat disappointing, it is hard to deny that there is still a sliver of uniqueness here.

Perhaps what is missing  is the suggestion of a narrative that brings these tracks together. Part of what draws us in to the music we love is being able to find something that resonates. What this album inspires overall is a feeling of disconnect. Not necessarily a negative – it is great to zone-out to once in a while – although ultimately , and in comparison to what the Bonobo name tends to offer, it is underwhelming.

Words by Kathy Halliday.

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