Bookish Beats: Bonobo – Black Sands

Bookish BeatsMusic, much like literature, has the power to drive your imagination; it can lift the soul and create real emotion.This is Bookish Beats, a feature which will showcase some of the soundtracks which have enriched the worlds I’ve found between the pages. 

Black Sands


Listen to with:

An atmospheric science fantasy

Such as:

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Black Sands is the fourth studio album from Bonobo, the stage name for musician and DJ Simon Green. Following on from the success of his previous three albums, Black Sands, with its combination of electronic beats, world music – in particular its eastern and afrobeat inspired tracks – and jazz, is a beautifully composed chillout album which succeeds in transporting you to another place.

Black Sands opens with Prelude, a beautiful and soaring track whose violin melody exhibits the eastern influence which is drawn throughout the rest of the album. This atmospheric melody is similarly picked up by other tracks and remains one of my favourite Bonobo tracks to date. Kiara samples Prelude to maximum effect, using electronic beats and distorted vocals to create an addictive track which retains the beauty and atmosphere of the original whilst adding dynamism and pace to an otherwise perfect melody. Similarly, Kong uses a repetitive melody which continues to build on the atmosphere in a supremely chilled out track which resonates with positive beats.

Eyesdown introduces some vocals into the mix with the soulful sounds of Andreya Triana, whose vocals are featured in a number of tracks throughout the album. With its repetitive and paced beat and electronic underscore, Eyesdown is another track which instantly takes you out of this world. Triana’s vocals return in The Keeper, a track which succeeds in slowing the pace of the album right down; and again in Stay the Same, which showcases the beautiful tone of Triana’s voice in this jazz and soul inspired track.

Black Sands builds on the success of these tracks with a number of instrumentals which set the tone and pace of the album, introducing new themes and diverting it where necessary. El ToroWe Could Forever and Animals are upbeat, jazz influenced tracks which revel in their own beat. 1009 uses traditional electronic beats to create a dance inspired track which remains tied to the rest of the album through the use of a steady electronic violin overtone.

All in Forms is another favourite from this album; an upbeat track which retains a haunting quality through sampled vocals which create an eerie and distorted atmosphere, both complementing and setting themselves apart from the rest of the track. This atmosphere is picked up again in Black Sands, the titular and closing track of the album; a beautiful, slow and haunting track which has an old world quality to it, playing off a sad melody against a positive beat.

This is a beautiful chillout album which provides a wonderful backdrop to reading. I wouldn’t normally have paired an album with such a positive overtone with a heady and atmospheric book such as Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, but its success in transporting you to another world only emphasised the strange of this novel. They say opposites attract, I guess they’re right.

Favourite track

01 – Prelude

Top track for action

02 – Kiara

Top track for tension

08 – All in Forms

Top track for emotion

12 – Black Sands



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