Vinyl Corner : Bonobo ‘Black Sands’

Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. We’re taking a look back at an early ’10s cult favourite for today’s instalment: a tenth anniversary edition of Bonobo’s ‘Black Sands’

The Music:

For many of us, it’s likely to come as a rather unpleasant shock that albums released in 2010 are now celebrating ten years on this earth. Despite time’s ever-relentless march onwards, it’s difficult to quite believe that many still-classic early ’10s musical statements are fast approaching vintage status, yet here we are. For all of 2020’s numerous trials, the reappearances of some 2010 classics in their tenth anniversary forms has proved a highlight throughout much of the year and another such reissue appears from Ninja Tune in the form of Bonobo’s ‘Black Sands’. Bonobo has become familiar to many over the past decade as a purveyor of intelligent electronic grooves, yet even now it’s this engrossingly hazy collection which remains the fan favourite. Spinning the album today, it isn’t difficult to see why it’s endured; the beats are both mellifluent and eager, egging the warmly soporific synthesisers on with an ever-greater aplomb which never once comes at the cost of the resolutely low-key atmospheres built up across its runtime. Though perhaps not “old-school” quite yet, revisiting ‘Black Sands’ now does place it in a category of its own; it continues to feel pertinent to the modern landscape of electronic music, yet somewhat removed from it. This, of course, is no bad thing; it’s a record of its time yet not defined by it – which is exactly why its tenth anniversary presents listeners with such a worthwhile excuse to revisit it once more.

The Pressing:

In commemorating ‘Black Sands’ tenth year of life, Ninja Tune have repackaged and reissued it on a lovely shade of vivid red vinyl. It certainly looks fantastic; the colour in question is bold and immediately eye-catching and a brief visual examination reveals both LPs to be impressively weighty in hand, with clean and glossy surfaces free of the handling marks which sometimes appear on new releases straight out of the shrinkwrap. The records have been pressed by France’s MPO – a popular yet almost always dependable pressing plant whose produce has been near-exclusively impressive. Initial signs are promising, then – but what of the audio itself? Well, that is fortunately no less commendable than the visuals; the noise floor is low across all four sides of our copy and surface noise is likewise minimal-to-nonexistent. The sonics, for their part, are both impactful and immediate; the bass groans with all the precision and intensity you could ask of it and the high-notes likewise glister with a pleasing clarity. Both LPs sit flat and warp-free upon the platter, making this one of the most stoutly-produced releases we’ve written about here at Vinyl Corner in quite some time.

The Packaging:

It’s clear from the quality of the pressing alone that Ninja Tune were intent upon producing a truly definitive edition of ‘Black Sands’ for its tenth anniversary reissue and, true to that, the packaging and presentation is similarly impressive. This re-release’s artwork has been adjusted, with the original shot having been replacing with a similar yet subtly different one. The resultant art direction serves as a knowing nod to eagled-eyed long-term fans and an aesthetic shift which places the art direction in line with the current zeitgeist’s preference for clean minimalism. Purist who would have preferred that the original artwork stayed put will be pleased to note, therefore, that it is included in the package as an attractive art print. More importantly, the cover itself is simply sumptuous; a broad-spined gatefold affair, it is wrought from very weighty, substantial cardstock of the style popular in America during the ’50s and ’60s. As long-term Vinyl Corner readers will realise, that makes it a tip-on sleeve – which is a very good thing indeed, as it lends the release a real air of luxuriant quality, in addition to providing it with a hard-wearing sturdiness that ensures it will most likely still be hanging around in great condition when the album reaches its twentieth, thirtieth and perhaps even fortieth anniversaries many years from now. The records also appear in smart printed paper inner sleeves, one of which includes a download code stickered to it. While these inners lack any form of polylining and therefore offer little protection to the records themselves, they are a welcome addition from an aesthetic perspective and round off a highly attractive package in fine form.  

Final Thoughts:

Those with fond memories of ‘Black Sands’ original release will very likely have already contemplated purchasing its tenth anniversary reissue, whilst those who’ve yet to acquaint themselves with its warmly inviting atmospherics may have only just come to hear of it. Either way, this anniversary edition boasts such superb quality control and has been produced to such high standards that the resultant release simply cannot help but leave a very positive impression.

Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at martin.leitch@gigsoupmusic.com – it would be great to hear from you!