It’s a bright, but frosty morning here in the East Midlands region of the UK – a day in which the rising sun should be welcomed by peeping out from the bedclothes with a sleepy smile and snuggling down for another twenty minutes while the central heating chases away the overnight chill. It’s Sunday. There’s no reason to get up early.
No Reason is an ease-into-the-day track from Bonobo‘s latest album, Migration, which was only released earlier this month. The track and the album are, of course, new to Crotchety Man. The artist is new to me, too. In fact, even the words for the genres associated with Bonobo‘s music are new to me. I have tagged No Reason as ‘ambient’, ‘chillwave’, ‘electronic’ and ‘trip hop’ because those terms are all associated with the artist and they seem to fit the song. But I may be using them inappropriately.
Bonobo is the stage name of Simon Green, a Brit now living in Los Angeles and most often described as a DJ. He seems to have emerged from the electronica and dance scene of the 80s and 90s, first as a DJ and then as a musician and producer.
Now, back in the dim dark days of Crotchety Man’s youth a DJ was just a guy who played records, usually 45 rpm singles, and his only creative input was in his announcements of the song title and artist. When some idiots started deliberately scratching the discs and driving the turntables with their fingers Crotchety Man turned his ears the other way. Yes, it did allow the DJs greater scope for artistic expression but their creations were poison to the sacred art of music making. To me, the sound of a diamond-tipped needle scraping over the much softer grooves of a vinyl record constitutes cruel and degrading behaviour and, as such, is banned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It damages the records and it tortures the listener.
My antagonism towards those first ‘creative’ DJs meant that I have been almost oblivious to the way the role of the DJ has evolved. Until very recently I was only dimly aware of DJ consoles: the specialist equipment that allows a DJ to mix music from vinyl discs, CDs and computers, to change the speed of one track to match the beat of another, and to add electronic effects. Over the years DJs have become more and more like producers and their work has, finally, become a truly creative art. It is no longer an insult for me to label someone a DJ.
There was another reason the Crotchety ears were deaf to the work of the early DJs. Their habitat was the clubs and the discos where young people went to dance, the girls to look pretty and the boys to impress. In those dimly lit halls a strong beat was essential and the DJs knew it. The trouble was they took it too far. When all you can hear is booming bass, thudding drumbeats and pulsing electronics you lose the music. I like to hear a tune as well as a rhythm, harmonies as well as a beat. Dance music has its place, I suppose, but there’s no place for it in the Crotchety collection.
Bonobo, though, is not a boom and thud merchant. There is neither ‘DnB’ nor ‘dance’ in the tag list. His music sits comfortably at the beat end of ‘ambient’. No Reason is a good example of Bonobo‘s general style but it’s atypical in that it features a guest vocalist (Nick Murphy, fka Chet Faker), who does a rather good job on this track. At the end of a long day it works on the brain the way a massage works on the body, easing away the stiffness and gently untangling the Gordian knots of frustrated ambition. And it works equally well at daybreak, too, to shake off the fog of sleep and prepare us for another day.
No Reason is available as a free download here. Migration is currently at number 5 on the UK album charts.