Simon Green is among a rare breed of electronic musicians whose records are as suited to the club as the café. The British musician’s work as Bonobo stands up to scrutiny on expensive headphones and can capably set the mood at house parties and intimate soirées.

Green’s career arc – from a commercial and stylistic point of view – shares many parallels with the dynamic variation we’ve come to expect from a Bonobo LP. He’s never been inclined to lay all his tricks on the table at once and he’s allowed his fanbase grow in a steady, organic manner. 

In the early years, around the turn of the 2000s, it wasn’t clear whether Green’s allegiances were with trip hop-laced downtempo or IDM-oriented dance music. On Fragments, Bonobo’s seventh album, Green’s industrious genre manoeuvring continues, but the record manages to sound at once more ambitious and more sophisticated. 

Fragments is the long-awaited follow-up to 2017’s Migration, a record that far eclipsed the commercial fortunes of Bonobo’s previous records. Migration also marked a significant diversification of Green’s songwriting horizons. Bonobo records have always boasted excellent production values; likewise, Green is a respected club DJ. But it wasn’t until Migration that Bonobo started getting compared to the likes of Four Tet, Jon Hopkins and Nicolas Jaar. 

Fragments begins with the sunrise-invoking harp melodies and atmospheric electronics of ‘Polyghost’. It’s straight out the Kieran Hebden playbook, but ‘Polyghost’ lasts just two-minutes before ceding the floor to ‘Shadows’, a techno song that features lead vocals from Jordan Rakei. 

Check out the official audio for Bonobo’s ‘Polyghost’

YouTube VideoPlay

“That was one of the first songs on the record, actually,” said Green in a track-by-track breakdown of the album. “[It] started out as quite a long, rolling, Detroit-y instrumental and I sent it to Jordan and he kind of sensed that there was some song structure in it.”

As a Briton living in LA, Green had a close-up view of the horror show that was the Trump presidency. Then, when COVID hit, he lost the ability to tour or go back and visit the UK. Throughout, he was struggling to get moving on a follow-up to Migration. 

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Green yearned from human contact and so he reached out to arranger and string player Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and harpist Lara Somogyi, who appear on ‘Polyghost’ and ‘Elysian’. ‘Otomo’ is another collaborative piece, which gets its name from Japanese artist and director, Katsuhiro Otomo, the creator of Akira

The title is a red herring, however, as ‘Otomo’ is built around a sample of the Bulgarian bagpipe choir, 100 Kaba-Gaidi. Green sent a recording of the choir to producer O’Flynn, who flipped it into the dancefloor-ready track that appears on the album. 

Elsewhere, Green introduces elements of tech-house (‘Rosewood’), bass music (‘Sapien’) and trip hop (‘Tides’). The mid-album palate cleanser ‘Elysian’ focuses on harp and swelling strings, whereas ‘Age of Phase’ and ‘Counterpoint’ show off Green’s nascent obsession with modular synthesisers.  

Check out the official audio for Bonobo’s ‘Elysian’

YouTube VideoPlay

But the album’s most resonant tracks are those that feature the human voice. The contributions of Rakei, Jamila Woods, Joji and Kadhja Bonet played a major role in converting Fragments from a mess of ideas into an album of captivating songcraft. For instance, when Woods sent back her vocals for the Massive Attack-like ‘Tides’, Green was elated. 

“I knew I had a centrepiece for the album,” he said. “I knew how it was all going to sound”.  

The album ends with the ballad, ‘Day By Day’, a collaboration with LA-based psych-soul singer, Kadhja Bonet. “She was someone that I approached very early on because I really liked what she was doing,” Green said. “I sent her some music and she sent back some ideas.” 

Green and Bonet then met up in the studio to complete the track; the only Fragments collaboration that was carried out in person. The song’s placement at the end of the album feels symbolic – the last five years haven’t been the most inspired of Green’s career but, in Fragments, he’s created an album of immense depth and a whole lot of heart.

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