It’s always the subtle nuances of a recording that make the difference between an album being just good and being great. Perhaps Simon Green has been paying strict attention to these subtleties. Recording once again as Bonobo, Black Sands is his fourth album and certainly his finest.
The mood is set right away on “Kiara Prelude” as a string section moves in and sets up permanent residence. The futuristic hip-hop of “Kiara” wraps those same strings around a head-bobbing bounce that wears a ribbon of vocal slivers for a bow. The tension builds on “El Toro” as woodwinds join the conversation and a series of drum solos are intricately chopped up and spliced back together.
Singer Andreya Triana’s contributions to this album are invaluable, whether she’s gliding with ease over the elegant two-step of “Eyesdown” or lamenting that “[W]e can’t go on living this way” on “The Keeper.” As beautiful as their collaborations are, Green’s instrumentals bowl you over every time. A song like “Animals” reveals the depth and audacious nature of his arrangements: he thinks like a jazz ensemble, not like an individual. This allows him to create art that is so much bigger than himself. It is this attention to detail along with the sensitive interplay between the rough and the smooth that causes Bonobo’s latest to beg for repeated listens in its entirety.