Song of the Week No. 8 - Bonobo on KEXP

They tell you Shuffle Mode is random, but I know better.  Sometimes I get the same artist pop up so often that I know the Gods of Good taste are charging me with spreading the word to a world in need of more great art.  Therefore, the word must clearly be broadcast about Bonobo, who have cropped up just about every time I've plugged in in the last few weeks.

Bonobo is British DJ/Producer Simon Green, who has been producing quirky, thoughtful sample-based soundscapes since the late 90's.  I've always found his work to be more subtle than most electronica, especially when it comes to his organic, delicate beats.  He uses a lot of found sounds, making his grooves original but human-sounding.  But most interesting about his development has been a gradual move towards more structured song-based forms.  His latest album, The North Borders, features some wonderful vocalists, all with a real fine touch, including Cornelia, Erykah Badu and the enigmatic Grey Reverend, best known for his work with my big heroes The Cinematic Orchestra.  Bonobo's work here, to me, shows how much feeling can be injected into electronic music.

But even better is how Green has adapted his work to the stage.  He has put together a flexible band of typically six people playing actual instruments.  Although he still uses samples, he gets real musicians to really play, turning his loops into spacious acoustic drum work and interwoven guitar and keyboard riffs, overlaid with the soulful vocals of Szjerdene.  I actually like it better than the recorded stuff.  Like the aforementioned Cinematic Orchestra, Green leaves lots of space for chords to linger and the drums to gently encourage the groove along.

Their performance is nicely captured in this live session for KEXP radio.  Okay, it's more than one song, but sometimes you can't stop at one.

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