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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 2 April 2013
As I'm nearing the end of an initial play through of this album, I thought I'd express my views on how this compares to previous Bonobo albums.

For me, Black Sands, Days to Come, Animal Magic and Dial M for Monkey had all exuded the particular style of down-tempo beats and soothing rhythms that made me a fan of Bonobo in the first place. Nothing could really top Black Sands for me - the logical conclusion and ultimate refinement of Bonobo's style.

It was with some trepidation that I approached this album wondering whether he'd played it safe, or had veered into a different style and lost that signature sound. Thankfully however, a fine balance between the two has been found; the album has a slightly edgier, more upbeat sound to it, bringing a freshness that was needed. I know most Bonobo fans would recoil if I were to mention dubstep in this review, and the album does not contain a dubstep track, but the beats on certain tracks have a post-dubstep sound to them (I'm not talking wub wub here, I'm talking basic beat), borrowing from Burial slightly in the use of samples and timing. It's a slightly more digital sounding album than previous efforts but fuller in vitality.

For these reasons I can understand why someone looking for a continuation of classic Bonobo could be disappointed, but I see it as an exciting new direction. If I've startled any devotees in my description do not panic - the changes are slight and the overall sound is unmistakably Bonobo but he hasn't been constrained by the niche that he's calved himself. It stands alongside Black Sands and not above it, which is surely no bad thing.
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on 12 April 2013
I've been listening to Bonobo for several years now and am definitely a big fan. Days to Come and Black Sands were monumental albums (I love every track on each of them) and I was really hoping for a continuation of the amazing downtempo vibe that Bonobo and Quantic practically invented.

While this album does contain elements of that (particularly the sublime Antenna) it's clear that Simon Green is subtley trying to seque a little into the more mainstream arena. While this is probably a good move for him commercially I hope he stays true to his roots and sticks to the downtempo sounds that have made his name up to now.

I also have to say that this is the first Bonobo album which contains tracks that I actively dislike. The mix for the track with Erykah Badu just doesn't sound right to me, it's almost as if the vocals have been tacked onto an instrumental track so they could have a big name appear on the album. It does eventually settle down half way through but it's a surprising misstep for an artist that normally mixes his tracks perfectly.

Perhaps I need to listen to it more (I was also initially slightly disappointed with Black Sands - before loving it) but the album doesn't really feel like it flows to me yet. More a collection of disparate ideas rather than a fully formed album.

There is certainly enough here to make this worth a purchase but I'd have to say this is not the masterpiece that his last two albums were. I hope that time (and lots more playthroughs) changes my mind.
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on 4 August 2013
To my mind, Si Green has assembled for himself an almost flawless discography, with me highly rating pretty much every single song he's created. Considering his fairly prolific output, that's a feat unmatched by any other artist in my collection - to my ears at least. Thus he stands on a pedestal, in a loved but perhaps precarious place.

With Black Sands the logical epitome of the sound he'd created, what came next was always going to have to follow a slightly different route, else always play second fiddle. The North Borders sensibly does mark a modest departure from the prior formula, largely via the use of differing rhythms. At the same time, it also also marks a return to the more sequenced structure of earlier work, in contrast to Black Sands' more organic feel.

Does it work? Up to a point. Technically, it's flawlessly assembled, but it's proving lighter on the emotional melodic hooks that earlier work always snared me with, and it was that ability to never fail to deliver that had Si Green up on my musical pedestal. The fella's only human, and to my ears, this album represents the first slight misstep. That's not to say there is not some very high quality here, but where present it's diluted by a (shock! horror!) skippable track or two (naming no names, Erykah & Cornelia...), and thus the collection is not quite the accustomed vintage of yore.

There's a possibility that my review here may be a little hasty. A couple of instantly-liked tracks aside, Black Sands took quite a while to grow on me, before eventually realising it was one of the best* albums in my vast eclectic collection. Off the back of that, how could any new Bonobo album realistically measure up, initially at least? So if I do change my mind, and I assign The North Borders to greater much melodic heights, I'll be sure to return and 'fess up.

I'm fascinated to hear what Si Green creates next. I'm tremendously optimistic he won't do "a Zero 7" on me, and in the words of Keegan "I would love it, love it" if he returned at an ever higher level than that reached previously, somehow managing to surpass the heavenly heights of Black Sands. Regardless, and in the meantime, I must thank Mr Green for bringing to me over the years some of the most wonderful tunes ever laid down.

Speaking of which, Cirrus, Sapphire & Ten Tigers, what new joys.

--
*The Best Album? The Chameleons' Script Of The Bridge of course.
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on 1 April 2013
After his last album, Black Sands, I had high hopes for Bonobo's follow up record. It may be because I had set my expectations so high, that I felt a little underwhelmed by this effort.
Black Sands is my favourite Bonobo album, and one of my most listened to albums of all time. With The North Borders, it seems as though Bonobo has taken a step away from the complex, more instrument driven sound of Black Sands and pursued a stripped back, house-y type feel. It's not bad by any strech, just not the direction I was hoping he would push his music.

I would recommend this album as it's a good listen, but it harks more back to his earlier 'Dial M for Monkey' work rather than his more recent sound.
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on 14 May 2013
I love downtempoe/ chillout lounge electronica, it's taken a long time to find something out of the ordinary in this genre. For Northern Borders I found an album that is irrisistable ! Northern Borders is a combination of harps , keyboards and even Eastern strings , hints of jazz hip hop soul , ambient electronica .Less known vocalists Cornelia , Grey Reverand and Sjerdana , outclassing Stateside Eryka Badu by far. Northern Borders has a polished eccelectic finish and is a downtempoe unique soundtrack to late summer nights and dark enough vocal chants to brighten up bleak long winters.
Echoes of Boards of Canada and Blue States and A Forest Mighty Black , in the sound . I have not been so addicted to an album in this field since Heffner's Level Green, Sawhiney's Beyond Skin , Toscas Suzuki, or Bonobo's label mates The Cinematic Orchestra's Motion . I have since listened to the rawer Black Sands and Black Sands remixed , for a special mix, mix all three albums together on shuffle , but without a doubt North Borders is my jewel of 2013.
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on 7 April 2013
Didn't think he could follow up Black Sands with something as brilliant but The North Borders truly manages it. Incredible album from start to finish. Perfect for summer. Cannot stop listening. Full of depth, feeling, complex layers, unique sounds and strikes a great balance between vocals and instrumentals. LOVE.
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on 27 June 2014
I paid extra for the 10" box set because 45rpm normally sounds better than 33. But the quality of these pressings seems poor compared to my 12" version of Black Sands, which is also a better album in my opinion. However, the packaging is very nice with a poster and a CD of the album, I feel this edition is only for collectors of memorabilia, not for those of us who actually enjoy listening to music on vinyl.
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on 24 June 2013
I come to The North Borders as a complete newbie to Bonobo. I heard him playing live tracks from this and previous albums on Gilles Peterson's 6 Music show, and fell instantly in love. The sound reminds me of early Massive Attack/Car Boot Soul, laid back, soul soothing, and scratchy enough to keep you interested. Can't get enough of The North Borders, and having no experience of Bonobo's previous work, can honestly say to other newcomers, if you want summat that wraps it's arms around you, and rocks away your cares, this is it! Will make it my business to seek out the back catalogue, but might have to wait til I get bored of this first...particularly loving the title track First Fires. Long may Bonobo burn brightly ;)
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on 11 April 2013
In a nutshell I'm already on about my 50th listen and it just keeps growing and growing on me, I'm just worried that I might over play it! :D

This is Bonobo's (AKA Simon Green's) sixth studio album (counting Black Sands Remixed). If there was ever a wonder in my mind about whether Bonobo would be able keep on producing original but still 'Bonobo' sounding music album after album and not get old hat, that wonder/doubt is gone forever now!

I must admit that when I first heard track 1 "First Fires (Feat. Grey Reverend)" I wasn't at all sure, I liked the tune but thought the vocals may make it a future 'track skipper', that would be my first ever Bonobo 'track skipper' I might add. However on around my 3rd listen it started to grow on me, and now on my 50th plus listen, I love the track as much as the rest of the album and can't resist singing along to it either. :)

Bonobo's done something new here again, the guy is a modern composing genius, the like of which I think is comparable to the old great composers of centuries gone by like Mozart and Beethoven. You can listen to any of his music a hundred times and still hear new subtly interwoven elements in it that you hadn't heard before.

I've heard it said that on nearly all good albums track 3 is usually the best, which on The North Borders is "Cirrus", the track given away for free to everybody on Bonobo's official mailing list (join at [...]) two weeks prior to the album launching, and let me tell you this much I CAN'T HELP BUT CRANK THE VOLUME RIGHT UP EVERYTIME! I shall say no more other than you MUST watch and listen to the video yourself right now on YouTube, Bonobo wants you to:-
[...]

The sublime "Heaven for the Sinner (Feat. Erykah Badu)" takes the tempo down a notch and really is a proper sunny afternoon track (if we ever get a summer again that is). Erykah has an amazing voice very suited to Bonobo's sound. Still not half way through and we hit "Sapphire", it's name really suits it, imagine if there was a musical instrument that used sapphires to create its sound, I reckon it would sound like this, oh and don't forget the bass, sick as per usual :)

By the way did I mention I went down to Brighton, to a club that Simon DJ'd all night at? We missed the warm up DJ who played the first hour because the queue to get in was still a mile long (literally!), when we did get in Simon was already playing and he carried on playing all night long (about 6 hours straight), there was literally nobody in there not dancing all night long, one of the best sets I have ever witnessed and I'm not that fussed for DJ's usually. :)

Next up track 6 and I'm not quite sure why the name "Jets"? Maybe Simon knows about chemtrails? Which leads me nicely to the beautiful track 7 "Towers (Feat. Szerdene)", could it be that tracks 6 and 7 should be taken as one phrase "Jets, Towers", 6 + 7 = 13 (Illuminati number) and Simon is saying jets did or didn't take down the twin towers? :D But hey, I'm a crazy 'conspiracy theorist' :)

Track 8 has possibly the best beat and bassline on the album, no need to turn up your bass, the album sounds perfectly balanced but bassy with the 'Direct' button pressed in on your amplifier. Track 10 "Antenna" has a gorgeous oriental sound to it, but not in traditional way, in a Bonobo way, with a stonking beat to boot. Stonking beats is a theme for this album, it reminds me of "Dial 'M' for Monkey" in that way.

Track 13 "Pieces (Feat. Cornelia)" takes the tempo down a notch as Bonobo prepares to leave us again :( Cornelia's voice is very good indeed and again amazingly suited to Bonobo's sound. I'm starting to think he could produce good music with anyone that can hold a tune! There, 58 minutes and 50 seconds later, we have it, Bonobo at his very best once again and leaving the listener looking forward to his next work of art :D

If you haven't invested at least £300 in a hi-fi separates system including: amplifier, CD player, speakers, cable and a decent (£30+) interconnect then don't expect to be able to hear any of Bonobo's music at its very best, some elements are very quiet and subtle and make full use of the frequency bandwidth of your music system.
Animal Magic was the album that made me change from a midi system to a Cambridge Audio setup and I don't regret it for a minute. This album just reaffirms that decision and listening to a proper original CD, in a decent dedicated CD player with good interconnects is a world away from my PC playing through the same amplifier (even with a good PC to amp interconnect).

In summary buy this album, support Bonobo's work, and enjoy hearing it as its meant to be heard, either that or buy it on vinyl! :D
He really does deserve the recognition he's starting to now get, but it would be great to see him make the mainstream more, I'd love to hear him on the radio. Hell I'd even start listening to the radio again if that happened! :D
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on 1 June 2013
Being a huge Bonobo fan I bought this the day after it came out (I didn't hear about them moving the release date forward), and I've listened to it a fair few times since it's release. After the first listen I didn't think this was quite as good as Black Sands (although I wasn't extremely gone with Black Sands on first listen and I'm sure this'll be the same), and I still think that Black Sands is a better album, although The North Borders is undoubtedly Bonobo and certainly has it's place. I feel like The North Borders is a kind of natural extension of Black Sands, and certainly follows the same direction he was travelling after Days to Come.
It's great to hear Badu on the album, and Heaven for the Sinner is one of my favourite tracks from the album. First Fires is also a great track, and overall I like all the tracks (I can't really think of a Bonobo track I don't like). I'm not sure that this album is as good as either Black Sands, or Days to Come, but is still a great downtempo album to chill out to.
It'll certainly be getting a few more outings over the coming weeks as I further assimilate it, but it has already earned it's place among albums that I'll regularly put play. If you like Bonobo, you'll certainly enjoy this album.
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