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The Making of Bonobo’s Migration Artwork

Bonobo released a beautiful video for Break Apart – the second track from his album Migration. Directed by photographer Neil Krug, the film was shot in the Mojave Desert in California but has an otherworldly feel: vivid colour treatments, strange plumes of smoke and glowing lights create an eerie landscape reminiscent of the surface of Mars or some other distant planet.

Krug captured footage using a drone while shooting the artwork for Migration. He drove to the desert in the middle of the night to photograph the area just before sunrise, avoiding the sun’s intense heat. “We were shooting in the dead of summer … by high noon it’s around 120 degrees in that part of the Mojave … so we made the executive decision to shoot as much of it, if not all of it, between four and six in the morning,” says Krug. “It was maybe one of the most beautiful shoots I’ve ever done in my career,” he continues. “When we arrived, it was pitch black and so tranquil and when we got to the spot where the cover image was taken, the horizon was like a neon blue. There was this very thin blue line glowing and you could hear birds singing in the distance. It was sort of like a soundtrack.”

The image on the album’s cover shows a column of fire rising up from the ground beneath a deep blue sky. Other images show dark plumes of smoke hanging in the air and rocks rendered a vivid shade of pink. Krug – who also shot the cover image for The Horrors’ album Skying and Bat for Lashes’ The Bride – says Bonobo wanted the artwork to feel “beautifully sinister”. In an initial meeting, the pair discussed creating ambiguous images that would hint at a darker narrative without giving too much away. “[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.

“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.”

Creative Review London by Rachel Stevens

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 Director | Editor | VFX : Neil Krug

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Bonobo | “Migration” Album Campaign