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4.4 out of 5 stars
The North Borders
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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 18 April 2013
Bonobo (aka Simon Green) has just seemed to effortlessly improve with age and time. 'The North Borders' had a lot to live up to with the critical acclaim of both 'Days To Come' and the urban-influenced 'Black Sands', but boy has it delivered in spades! Tracks like 'Jets' and 'Cirrus' offer glimmers of the Bonobo of old, delicately interwoven with sumptuous beats and vocal snippets to glorious effect, while 'Emkay' and the fantastic 'Antenna' echo a new, unchartered direction. Acts that churn out album after album of 'samey' beats and vacant, nonsensical lyrics should take note as it is clear from the first listen that a great deal of thought and care has gone into this offering. The production and layering of sounds and textures makes for an aural delight - if this is what experimentation, regeneration and deviation results in then more of the same please Simon!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
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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