It is a talented artist who can transport listeners from sitting poolside under a warm Barcelona sky to wandering a mystical forest in northern England, all in span of one album. Welcome to the auditory intricacies of Bonobo.
Simon Green, better known as Bonobo, is steadily perfecting his aptitude for transference. Emerging from Britain in the early 2000’s, the trip hop DJ, producer and composer is known as one of UK’s downtempo pioneers, melding ambient electronica with hyper modified instrumentals and beautifully soulful vocalists.
Building on an early digital background, Bonobo has embraced the electronica live-band movement. He is creating a personalized style that is both experimental and selected with care. At times, his band consists of up to 9 members, bringing studio-quality tracks to life on stage. While some of the instrumentation is easily recognizable, other parts are harder to pick out. Harp and bells on “Noctuary” from the album Dial ‘M’ for Monkey build an ambient, almost ethereal soundscape. Though one might be hard-pressed to notice the nylon guitar and ukulele on Black Sands’ “Stay the Same”. Speaking to NPR about his methods, Bonobo says: “I want to try and be as representative of the process as I can. Rather than just playing back samples and sounds from a laptop, I try and break it down to the original parts that went into the process.”
Bonobo’s sophomore record, Dial ‘M’ for Monkey (2003), is a full-bodied journey into electronic soul music. Upbeat tempos keep pace on funky dance tracks like “D-Song”, adding in keys and heavy snare. “Change Down” comes across with a jazzier flavor. All this sauce lasts about a third of the way into the tracks, changing up in linear fashion towards a more liquid flow as the song progresses. “Nothing Owed” is the real gem of the album, a sonic assemblage of Latin beats and graceful horns; it is a mellow serenade with a feel that’s Pink Floyd meets Federico Aubele. If you appreciate complex, overlapping genres spun into “chill out”, you’ll love the entire album.
Bonobo released Black Sands in the spring of 2010. It is a tighter, more break-beat driving project, and heavy on samples from the different world music traditions. Mixing Asian string melodies with synth keys on “Kiara”, he switches up with undeniable American soul on “The Keeper”. Bonobo has a strong talent for blending house beats, complex bass lines, and classic rhythms. His selection of vocalists is equally brilliant, namely Andreya Triana a London-born gospel funktress who adds sexy sophistication to the live band. A favorite is the hip hop remix of “Eyesdown” with Andreya and DELS off 2012’s Black Sands Remixed album. The downbeat, lounge nature of this album is closer to drum and bass, looped and layered, abstract and emotional.
Delve into Bonobo’s visionary soundscapes at Juke Joint, this Thursday, January 10th @ 9pm, $5-$25 at Hopmonk, 230 Petaluma Avenue, Sebastopol, (707) 829-7300