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Gentlemanly Jams – Bonobo’s “Black Sands”

It’s time for the next installment of Gentlemanly Jams. Having ventured into bebop jazz’ “The Procrastinator” for our maiden voyage, we’re going in a different direction today, enjoying Bonobo’s “Black Sands.” First, let’s go over a bit of background on the artist.

Who is Bonobo?

bonobo after a seongBonobo is the stage name of Simon Green, a British musician, producer, and DJ who now lives in LA. His work is very downtempo hip-hop driven (trip-hop) and is known to be “soothing.” Despite its orientation around samples and beats like much of its hip-hop contemporaries, Bonobo’s music also utilizes plenty of live instrumentation, and his live shows utilize live performing musicians as well.

Throughout the course of his career, Bonobo’s sound has evolved. There are elements of classical, jazz, and world music in his newer work, and he’s got guest collaboration bona fides as well – even Erykah Badu has worked with him.

Black Sands

Released in 2010, this album’s overall vibe is moody and reflective. Bonobo’s music’s reputation as “soothing” definitely holds up. Whether uptempo or downtempo, this album has a hypnotic quality that’s inescapable. The fact that the album is completely instrumental except for two songs certainly contributes to it, as do the lush strings and woodwinds that weave their way through the songs.

bonobo holding bass guitarStyle-wise, there’s a clear trip-hop influence as the basis here. Lots of drum samples are juxtaposed against live bass guitar and other instrumentation, and there’s just as much electronica influence as there is classical and jazz. Crucially, Bonobo ensures that this smorgasbord of interests always sounds cohesive and musical. At no point does anything stick out like a sore thumb.

Fun fact: the song “Kong” was featured in S2:E8 of Netflix’s “House of Cards.”

Those readers familiar with music theory will appreciate the following:

  • Literally every song on the album is in a minor key. This is the main driver of its moodiness and contributes to the hazy, hypnotic feel it gives you.
  • There are points where it ventures into some unorthodox time signatures, too. “Animals” is in 7/4 – while not generally considered a danceable time signature, Bonobo makes it groove effortlessly.

If instrumental music isn’t your thing, check out “Stay The Same,” which features a soulful, introspective vocal performance from Rhye. It’s worth a few minutes of your time.

Why We Love It

We always, always strive to have our shop be a relaxing, pleasant experience. There’s some music that’s simultaneously layered, groovy, and smart all at once. “Black Sands” covers all of this ground and much more, making you want to nod your head and drift off all at the same time.


“Black Sands” does a great job of drawing on manifold influences and creating a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

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