Musician and Producer
It never fails to amaze me how swiftly a moment of fortune can so easily become a noose round the neck. Especially in the oh so fickle world of the music biz. In the case of Bonobo the moment, or perhaps the year, of fortune came when he released his debut album 'Animal Magic', at the precise time that 'chill' was the buzz word on everyone's lips. Never mind the fact that, even on the evidence of those first efforts, he was a truly gifted producer, you can't beat the power of the buzz. As is the way of these things, the buzz became the murmur, and soon became the background hum, as endless chillout comps, ads, and media campaigns swamped the shore of our consciousness.
A young Simon Green (for it is he who is the monkey king) refused to be dragged down by the lazy journalistic prose that labeled him 'chillout' and 'downtempo'. Far from it. He upped the stakes, and indeed, even stuck his neck out, moving from his original label Tru Thoughts to Ninja Tune, and set about taking things to the next level.
Cos it's all about the levels with Bonobo. Not in a techy, studio kinda way, but in the levels of involvement with his music. On the surface there are the organic, pastoral atmospheres, the catchy melodies, the elements that caught people from his first album. You can engage with a Bonobo tune in that way if you wish, and will be well rewarded for it. But it's the deeper, slightly hidden levels that you should investigate, for they bring the greatest prize. It's these elements that he explored on 'Dial M For Monkey', as a greater focus on live instruments, the intricacies of rhythm, the darker shades of the soul, and almost a sleight of hand, that meant that you could be in one mood one minute, and the next you would be somewhere different.
'Dial M For Monkey' showed the set of brass balls that Bonobo (like his namesake) had, and these would be tested again as he set about building his live band. He duly found the right musicians, self financing rehearsals, and fine tuning a live show that brought out the elements of his music that had hitherto gone largely unnoticed, as the band swung and rocked their way through shows at Glastonbury, The Big Chill, Jazz Cafe, and internationally exotic settings from Italy to Russia.
He set about building his DJ style in the same way, refusing to conform to the preconceived ideas of a laid back style, and aiming headlong for the dancefloor, with a heavy mixture of hip hop, weighty jazz, broken beats, Latin, funk, and soul, with the occasional cheeky bit of psyche rock and drum and bass thrown in. Just to keep you on yer toes right? Now a DJ of international repute, Bonobo has played all over the world, including playing to huge audiences in the USA and Canada with Amon Tobin, a progress culminating in Ninja Tune asking him to put together a Solid Steel mix album. Bugger the lounge, lets dance.
Now, with the expectations duly dispatched with the good hiding they deserve, the field is wide open for Bonobo to push himself even further, and we await the next album, due late 2005 / early 2006, with our minds well and truly opened to the possibilities.
"Lots of live shit", says Bonobo. "Strings, horns, drums and vocals. More energy and a bigger, heavier sound".
Come on then son.