Fragments

Fragments

During the disorienting first few months of the pandemic, Simon Green hit a creative block. The British electronic musician, better known as Bonobo, felt trapped and isolated working out of his home in east Los Angeles, starved for live music and human interaction. “I desperately needed to get into a different headspace,” he tells Apple Music. “Really, I needed to get out of the house.” Green began taking solo camping trips into the area’s remote mountains and deserts in an effort to get his creative juices flowing. “Exploring California was a great way of breaking the monotony of being indoors all day,” he says. “During this time of zero stimulation, I felt like I had to make it for myself.” Fragments, his moody seventh album, born from these adventures, is a tribute to the West Coast’s wide-open spaces. A laidback mix of mesmerizing techno, orchestral instrumentation, and hushed R&B balladry, the project is as sprawling, peaceful, and varied as the landscape itself. Here, he takes us inside the making of each track.
“Polyghost” (feat. Miguel Atwood-Ferguson) “This began as a long, drawn-out, seven-minute techno track that didn’t make the final cut. But it was built on top of two important thematic elements: harp, which is played by Lara Somogyi, who I recorded and then sampled, and strings, which are played by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. In the end, I decided to keep just those two parts because they weave throughout the rest of the record and drew everything together. The minute I did that, it became the obvious opener.”
“Shadows” (feat. Jordan Rakei) “Back in 2019, before I even started assembling this album, I was working on a track that felt like a reference to guys like Theo Parrish and Moodymann—that swingy, old-school Detroit sound. I had been listening to that Andrew Ashong song ‘Flowers’ and felt like, with a vocalist, this could be in that same area. I reached out to Jordan, who helped me work out the structure—a bit of tension and release—and it wound up being one of the first tracks I had in place for this project. I’ve been sitting on it for almost three years.”
“Rosewood” “A good ways into making this album, I started to feel like I had the record but I didn’t have a proper single. So I went through my iPhone notes and voice memos and found a little piano loop that jumped out at me. I pulled it into Ableton and put a little kick drum under it and immediately felt like it could be the seeds of something. For the hook, I found this R&B a cappella on YouTube that had this little lyric of ‘I won't leave you.’ And I knew that was it.”
“Otomo” (feat. O’Flynn) “This features an archived folk recording of a Bulgarian bagpipe choir that, to me, feels like a huge sample. It’s this big, droning, ethereal, cathedral-y thing, and I hadn’t heard anything like it before. I felt like it deserved to have some big moments around it, so I reached out to my friend O'Flynn, who does that so well—switching between tuneful melodies and percussive muscle. He wound up building an entire section for it, without even me prompting him, and it was perfect. It’s definitely the track that’s going to get played out in the club.”
“Tides” (feat. Jamila Woods) “I’d been talking to Jamila and a few other vocalists about doing some collaborations, but nobody was feeling particularly motivated—it was too early into the pandemic. But then, in 2021, people came to life. Jamila texted me that she was going into the studio to record something, and it wound up being a demo that’s on the record. Hearing it really kick-started my creative energy. I remember when she first sent it to me, I was heading out for the night and was like, ‘I'm going to wait to listen to this until I get home, when I can really give it my full attention.' When I got back, I'd had a couple glasses of wine, so I was in the perfect state. I hit play, and I was just...overcome. I almost cried. It was like suddenly there was an emotional centerpiece to the record. It changed everything.”
“Elysian” “This one is named after Elysian Park, which is very close to where I live in LA. Because it was the pandemic and most things were closed, I spent a lot of time in the park, going for walks, cycling up to Angels Point, and so on. As this song came together, I listened to it while walking around in Elysian, so the tribute felt appropriate. It’s the midway point of the record, and felt like a good place to have a nice acoustic interlude. A moment of pause.”
“Closer” “I was digging around in my archives and stumbled upon an old session recording with Andreya Triana, a singer-songwriter who I’d worked with back in 2009. I produced her debut album, Lost Where I Belong, in my apartment in London. I pulled some vocals from this one track ‘Far Closer,’ and it worked really well. I hit her up and was like, ‘Hey! Remember this vocal? I've started sampling it again on this other thing.’ She got a kick out of it.”
“Age of Phase” “Throughout this whole process, I was playing a lot with modular synths. It was a way of keeping the process exciting, to learn how to use different technology. ‘Age of Phase’ is basically exclusively modular synths, apart from the vocals, and that was a new thing for me. I wanted to create all these interweaving melodies and vocals and have everything reach this chaotic peak, before diving down into something really lush. I'm going to try to deconstruct it for the live show and see how far I can push that idea.”
“From You” (feat. Joji) “This one seems like it’s a bit of a curveball for some people. Maybe myself as well. But I was trying to do something that sounded a bit more like contemporary hip-hop and R&B. I was listening to Kehlani, SZA, slowthai, even some James Blake, and was really inspired by that blended sound. I'd always wanted to work with Joji, because I think he's a really interesting musician, and when the parts all came together I was like, ‘Wow, okay, this is kind of a pop song. And I'm kind of into that.’”
“Counterpart” “This song came together early on and was exactly the mix of sounds I was looking for—a little bit techno, but quite melodic, with lots of modular synths. It was so fun to make that I was sad when I finished it, so now I’m working on a live version as well. I think it’s going to have multiple lives.”
“Sapien” “This is my throwback to early-'90s rave—artists like Mike Paradinas, Rephlex, and Future Sound of London, that era of melodic, ravey breakbeats. I sent the piano part into a modular so I could get all those choppy synth parts that are actually from a Rhodes piano, and then I went apeshit on drum programming at the end as a way to hearken back to that era of frenetic drum breaks. It’s one of the more abrasive moments on the record, which I really like.”
“Day by Day” (feat. Kadhja Bonet) “This is a straight R&B jam, really. I had spoken to Kadhja for ages and we'd sent demos back and forth. And the thing I like about this one is that it references earlier stuff of mine. It feels like it could be from the Black Sands era, which makes me feel like I’ve come full circle. I also like that it has a sense of optimism as the album closer, serving as a reminder that everything’s going to be all right.”

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