Simon Green’s newest album, provocatively titled Migration, comes after the artist’s move from the UK to California. Following on from three excellent offerings on the Ninja Tune label – Days to Come (2006), Black Sands (2010) and The North Borders (2013) – Green can comfortably claim to be at the top of his game and the height of popularity.
Despite this, Migration rarely shifts beyond the comfort zone established by these previous albums, with the numerous features perhaps an attempt at papering over the core weaknesses of the album. All too often a couple of songs can slip by without leaving any lasting impression, as if unused cuts from Black Sands or North Borders.
While this shores up the album with a reassuring texture and sound that is uniquely Green’s own, it does little to innovate. Features from the groups Rhye and Innov Gnawa improve the album undoubtedly, but solo contributions from Nicole Miglis and Nick Murphy (aka Chet Faker) offer too little to help push the album onto the next level
Undoubtedly though, the main flaw is that the album as a whole suffers from a certain flatness of production, meaning that percussion, bass and drums fail to escape feeling hollow and flat. For an album that proclaims migration as its predominant thematic concern, it seldom departs from a narrow sonic plain. Rarely are vocals given depth and dimension to take precedence, and ‘Bambro Koyo Ganda’ suffers most from this, as Gnawa’s powerful turn in building the song up is deflated by a limp drop that peters away. The standout moment comes early in the breakdown of ‘Outlier’ from a dreamy, almost wistful float amongst the clouds into an acidic and pulsing beat that will certainly be gracing international dancefloors over the coming months. In this moment Green, who is taking the album on a staggering and comprehensive 11 country tour, playing 39 separate gigs in the space of just four months, still manages to retain a spark of a growing global appeal that comes from sitting within the top 10 charts in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands.