Get to know: Bonobo


Harry Lindsey


11 Aug 2017

We get to know the electronic wizard himself, Bonobo.

Featured image by Neil Krug

Grab a ticket to Bonobo Live at The Brighton Centre on November 21st

The pizzicato flavour of Bonobo's horizontal, chilled-out hip hop has been a pioneering staple of the UK electronic scene throughout the 2000s. With 7 studio albums under his belt and a seemingly infinite stream of EP releases, Bonobo's prolific career has seen him continue to develop his unique, downtempo approach to electronic music, which has resulted in a creative output of cultural significance to the global electronic music stage.

Ahead of Bonobo's homecoming gig, we thought it was the perfect time to delve into his discography, getting familiar with his creative output and career so far, so when it comes to November 21st you'll know all there is to know about Bonobo, allowing you to have a well-informed boogie at his hotly anticipated show at the Brighton Centre.

Born in Brighton, Simon Green spent the formative years of his music career experimenting and becoming familiar with the UK downtempo scene. For those of you who don't know, downtempo is a genre of electronic music pioneered in the UK during the 90s. Born out of a distance some artists felt towards the enormity of the 90s rave culture, downtempo provided a slower-paced, rhythm driven genre of electronic music, intended for smaller and chiller spaces. Artists such as DJ Shadow and Portishead were some of the biggest names to come out of the genre, both of which were a big influence to Bonobo when he was recording his first album. Modern incarnations of the genre would be UK artists like James Blake and The XX, who signify a departure from traditional hip hop inspired sampling to a more organic and original sampling technique.

In many ways, Bonobo's discography is emblematic of the stylistic developments of UK downtempo. With his debut album Animal Magic, released on the Brighton-based independent label Tru Thoughts in 2000, Bonobo had a much more lo-fi sound. As he told KEXP, he didn't know much about production and sampled in the traditional sense; raiding basement charity shops, looking for breaks to make good percussive foundations for his tracks. This can be heard on his debut single, Terrapin. Released on the Tru Thoughts compilation When Shapes Join Together, the woozy, laidback grooves of Terrapin feel like the foundation of Bonobo's signature sound. The ambient guitar lines, walls of synth textures and the delicately high pitched vocal samples are all seamlessly weaved together, creating the barebones of Bonobo's downtempo sound that he would continue to develop and innovate over the years on the Ninja Tune label, which he signed to in 2001.

With each release his talents and ambition as a musician and producer have grown remarkably. On 2010's Black Sand, without a doubt Green's most significant release in terms of global exposure, Bonobo began incorporating more of a unique and organic approach to sampling, approaching his music like a foley artist, (someone who reproduces everyday sound effects for films). Bonobo began recording the sounds of dropping keys, tapping coffee cups and the squeaking of wine bottles, pushing his sampling technique to what he describes as 'a microscopic realm of sound'. As his sound has developed, Simon Green's mission statement with Bonobo has remained the same, as he told Magnetic Mag earlier this year, "I always try to make music sound as human as possible." Whether it's the microscopic world of sampling everyday objects or his crate-digging days as a 19 year old, ideas of universality have always been integral to his sound. This universality has translated and expanded more and more with each new studio album and with the growth of his live performances, which began to encorporate a live band in 2006.

Recreating the sounds he made alone in his studio, Bonobo's live show now captivates his steadily growing audience with his expansive, orchestral approach to downtempo music. As seen in his countless live performances online, from sessions for KEXP, Boiler Room and the BBC, Bonobo's sound appears to hold no boundaries. His crowds appear bigger with each new release and his sound more refined, allowing his established knack for universal sonic lushness to spread further with each performance. Bonobo himself sees 2010's Black Sand as the album that brought him global recognition as it made his name known in the US, but each release since has pushed his sound further into the hearts of music listeners. With 2014's The North Borders, Bonobo had the pleasure of collaborating with soul legend Erykah Badu for the track Heaven for the Sinner, his biggest collaboration to date. Then, his follow up, this year's Migration, has already become his biggest release to date, charting at number 5 on the UK album chart.

Off the back of Migration's success, Bonobo will be busy touring with his live band throughout the next year, gifting ears across the world with his mellow, rhythmic sonic fields of goodness. Catch him live at the Brighton Centre on the 21st November. It is not to be missed.