Album Review: Bonobo “The North Borders”

The North Borders
Ninja Tune

Rating: 9/10

By Aaron Binder

There is a great divide when the term ‘mood music’ is uttered.  For some it can conjure memories of break-ups, the beach, funerals, train rides, any number of different activities.  Others are apt to believe it sets a mood or builds an atmosphere around the listener(s).  There’s no denying that music does create moods and affects everybody differently but it would be difficult to assume that everybody listens in the same way and for the same reason.

Few musicians can transcend listening styles, moods and atmospheres to create absolute classics every time.  Bonobo is one of those guys that some would consider to be already there.  Bonobo is an artist that has been creating music for almost 15 years under the name and now has 5 full length albums and a number of impressive guest credits to his name.  It’s not easy building up a name in the music industry but Bonobo has been consistent with his releases and has become one of the top musicians in the electronic genre.


His latest release, The North Borders, expands on his repertoire as a chilled out producer that integrates a lot of ambient noise and samples into his tunes.  One of the biggest quandaries in the electronic genre is that it automatically lends itself to the album format but few artists can piece together a compelling 45+ minute disc.  While few can pull it off, this is where Bonobo excels and continues to do so on The North Borders.  The compositions draw on a lush background of jazz beats, surprisingly hooky bass lines and a number of beautiful vocal guests.  The addition of Erykah Badu on ‘Heaven for the Sinner’ will definitely turn a few ears.

It’s deeper than that, too.  You’re going to hear a lot of soundscapes on this album so you need to be wearing your best headphones to really enjoy this piece lest you miss out on some of the more intricate movements.  Bonobo is a character that often defies whatever is happening in the mainstream, the care and deft placement of a wide variety of instruments and beat styles speak to his desire for uniqueness on this album.

Bonobo is a lot like Amon Tobin, they’re two of the hardest working artists in the electronic world and both are consistently pushing their music and genre forcing other artists to either innovate or face extinction.  The North Borders is an exceptional piece of work that acts as a perfect companion to driving your car on an abandoned highway late at night with no destination necessary, just the need to feel alive.


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