Selected
Bonobo
Bonobo
Genre: Electronic
Tags: downtempo, ethnic, trip-hop, house, jazz, uk
Key labels: Ninja Tune, Tru Thoughts
Years active: 1999–present

Simon Green (born 30 March 1976), known by his stage name Bonobo, is a British musician, producer, and DJ based in Los Angeles. He debuted with a trip hop aesthetic, and has since explored more upbeat approaches as well as jazz and world music influences. His tranquil electronic sound incorporates the use of organic instrumentation, and is recreated by a full band in live performances. Green's work has attained a cult following, and he has collaborated with a variety of other artists. (Wikipedia)
What a great moment to start this magazine with such an outstanding musician as Bonobo. My journey in the genre started when I dived into his 2010 LP 'Black Sands'. Yeah, I meant rather genre, because it's so unique in its own way, as it's fueled by many downtempo, jazz and hip-hop artists at the same time. But when you combine all that stuff together, it's really hard to find something similar, so yeah, I'll reference Simon's music as a genre. If you want to chill with friends and wine at a home party during lovely summer evening, there's nothing better than some Bonobo pieces.

But hey, it's a magazine about covers, so let's talk some artworks, shall we? Close you eyes, listen to a few records and all of a sudden you imagine yourself being either on the beach of Rio de Janeiro or at the shore of Cape Town. Open the eyes, look at the Bonobo's artwork and there will be no surprise. Even if you just take a look over the covers, you may get the vibe before taking a bite of any track at all. And that's a good thing. Considering that a typical Bonobo cover is basically a photo with a few tweaks here and there, almost each of them sets the mood which won't evaporate during the listen.


Bonobo – Black Sands
The three cover photographs form a triptych around Derwentwater in the Lake District. They were taken at each point on the map with each view capturing the place of the next photograph and the last photograph capturing the place of the first, building a spacial context for the images rather than three individual pictures in isolation.
I have to confess—the LP photograph made me think it was the Amazon River surrounded by dense rainforest. I used to think so until now, and by now I mean while I'm writing these words down. But, oh well, it's located in north-west England. There are two main conclusions so far: 1) the nature of England is quite diverse and 2) I need to travel more (crying in pandemic).

But let's dig into the concept. I like the idea of the triptych approach. All the photographs set the right mood for the whole piece with their blue and green midtones. The main photo is used in the LP cover, while the other two are placed into singles and apparently inside vinyl contents.
The photos themselves are great, except for the third one. For some weird reason, it looks off—maybe there's too much light, compared to the rest. I imagine it hard to shoot when you constantly need to relocate around the lake and be lucky to get the same weather conditions. Nevertheless, I appreciate the effort, knowing what a marvellous photographer Pelle is.
The type, Leroy was drawn specifically for the project. It is based on a technical drawing found in a 60's model car magazine. The type was drawn with a lettering set, a system used around that time to letter maps and other precision drawings.
I like the idea behind the letters and their execution (especially those badass backslanted ones in the finished font). The letterforms are funky in rhythm with music and serious at the same time.
Overall, the final composition of the LP cover is nicely balanced with the type being diagonally placed relative to cloudy sky. It's pleasant to look at and easy to find in a stack of vinyls. Can't tell the same about covers of the singles, but we're here for the LP, so yeah.
Bonobo – The North Borders
Design: Leif Podhajský
Year: 2013
Favourite track: First Fires (featuring Grey Reverend)
Links
https://leifpodhajsky.com/Bonobo-The-North-Borders
https://leifpodhajsky.com/Bonobo-The-North-Borders-Box-Set
Leif Podhajský is known for his abstract, vibrant, textured, psychedelic (and often symmetrical) style, which definitely grabs the viewer's attention and mesmerizes them for a long time. While being repetitive, the approach is still able to punch with freshness and dopeness. This project is no exception.

The cover goes abstract and features mirrored engulfing waves, I guess, because I'm not 100% sure what it is. My imagination has always portrayed this as a canoe swimming out of a cavern to the sea. It's like you're just about to get out of the cave and sunbeams strike the eye. Whichever interpretation is correct, the artwork accompanies the music quite well by setting the right mood and giving a distinctive look. Everything is beautifully textured and detailed to the point where you really want to buy a vinyl, not because it's expensive and inconvenient, but to have that huge printed cover on the foreground of a room.
Bonobo is loyal to the green and blue vibe on this record, which blends into some turquoise stuff and, also, makes a cohesive connection with other albums. Now I see a pattern where colour is something, that ties Bonobo's music to nature and its beauty in all forms. I do appreciate how colour is slightly filtered at the top, giving the cover another subtle layer of texture.

The album title (with an unexpected period) is set in geometric sans serif and placed onto an almost transparent rectangle with rulers here and there. Letters in 'or' pair in the 'North' are quite far from each other and could be kerned tighter, like some pairs in 'Borders' as well. It's a minor issue and I can live with it. What bothers me more is this whole text composition. Everything is so beautifully mirrored, that it's almost painful to see the chunky composition of the rectangle with text and rulers, placed in the upper left corner. I'd love it laid out more in harmony with the overall composition (like in Tame Impala's case). The rulers may be a tribute to the previous LP, but again, I'm not sure.


Bonobo – Migration
Design: Neil Krug
Year: 2017
Favourite track: Kerala
Links
https://www.neilkrug.com/bonobo
And the last one here is 2017 LP 'Migration'. Simon goes back to photography on this record with some help of mighty Neil Krug. Neil is well known for his signature photography and videography approach. I'll definitely review more of his work because frankly speaking, this is by far the most beautiful and vibrant cover of Bonobo's music. I'm getting double pleasure from listening to the album and looking at the artwork. That's the bar and that's how it should work.
The image on the album's cover shows a column of fire rising up from the ground beneath a deep blue sky... "[Bonobo] wanted it to be colourful and not too literal," adds Krug. The desert location was chosen partly for its Martian appearance. Krug admits he was a little disappointed when the location of the shoot was revealed, preferring instead to create images that viewers can't quite place. "I like to leave things quite vague and ambiguous … I'm always looking for spots that aren't recognisable," he adds.
Usually, I'm against highly saturated photos, because so many things can go wrong. Here it feels necessary, considering the colourful and multi-layered tracks on the record. Shoutout to Neil, it's done perfectly with all tones balanced, nicely shadowed rocks and well-exposed sky.
I'm not surprised Bonobo chose this particular photo among the many others for the main cover, given dominating blue tones and perfectly centred composition. After all, it's just a beauty on its own.
Once Si and I had sat down and talked, I knew [the artwork] needed to be something other than just landscape images," explains Krug. "I thought, if this is really going to grab your attention and create a narrative, you need something else in there – but what's in there can't be too loud or comment too much on what the music is. It had to stand out in an unusual way. I went back and forth with a few ideas and then it hit me that it should be light and smoke and fire – that these symbols should move through the artwork – and I knew that the cover should be almost like the earth is splitting open and this fire is coming out of the ground.
The ground is literally breathing fire like a mini geyser and I'm here for it. This blast fires the whole energy and makes me throw everything away and start dancing immediately. Shadowed rocks create a nice contrast and give it the opportunity to be the focal point. Big lumpy clouds may appear as smoke at second glance. Without the fire, the cover would be just nice, no doubt. I'm only genuinely curious if the bush caught on fire, did it?
Conclusion
Overall, both covers and music of Bonobo are telling one story at a time, putting the listener into an endless colourful journey. As Simon tries to find his best sound throughout the career, so do his covers. I'm eager to see what's next and honestly can't nearly grasp what that would be.