Simon Green doesn’t mess around when it comes to his name. The Bonobo is an endangered simian, his last album was called Animal Magic, and now he brings us Dial ‘M’ for Monkey. He’s got a theme, and you’re going to remember it if he has to crack you over the head with a coconut. It’s a well chosen theme at least; his latest album is full of primal beats, some tapped out on bongos and other hand drums, coupled with some simple, yet unusual, instrumentation and wrapped into a jazzy down-beat package. Even with a few zoo noises tossed in, Dial ‘M’ for Monkey is the latest installment in Ninja Tune’s new line of releases providing a soundtrack for your lazy Sunday afternoons.
The good news: You will like this record. Put it on, sit in your favorite easy chair, and let the head nodding beat and subtle melody of “Noctuary” rock you into submission. The slow, clanging beat of “D Song” brushing over vibraphones extends the mellowness Green seeks to inspire. If you’re inexplicably overwhelmed with the desire to get some chores done around the house, pop on “Pick Up,” and that flute loop will make you scrub like you’ve been downing Dexedrine all afternoon. The refreshing closer, “Light Pattern,” is a perfect finale for this album, combining the cinematic jazz, the acoustic guitars, and the shuffling beats into a tasty Bonobo stew (condemned by the World Wildlife Federation).
It’s nice to see Ninja Tune leaning toward the humane and forgiving side of the musical spectrum, with artists like Bonobo, Hint, and Super Numeri to balance out the image of a cold, mechanized future painted by earlier works on the label. While Monkey is a worthy addition to this product line, it also bears a distinct similarity to its peers — Hint’s Portakabin Fever in particular. Portakabin has more of a down-home feel; Monkey is more exotic, but the components are very similar.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing — I dug Portakabin Fever, and I dig Dial ‘M’ For Monkey — just don’t expect any earth-shattering revelations here. Simon Green gets himself in a groove and pretty much stays there for 42 minutes. But it’s a funky groove, and one worth checking out.