Review and photos—Bonobo at Malkin Bowl, Vancouver, Sept 15 2017
– review by Taisuke Tanimura, photos by Kirk Chantraine
Bonobo at Malkin Bowl, Vancouver.
The electronic music act returned to Vancouver for the third time this year for a stunner of a set at the Stanley Park venue.
Simon Green, the mastermind behind the project, is a British musician now residing in LA. Green has been releasing music as Bonobo since 2001. Migration is his sixth and most recent album (it dropped in January). Critical acclaim has followed everything Green touches, and it’s easy to see why. Deftly incorporating house, jazz, UK garage, dubstep, with a healthy dose of world music, Bonobo offers something for everyone.
For its Vancouver show, Bonobo operated in two modes. There was the dreamy seven-piece led by UK-based vocalist Szjerdene. They sent chills up my spine with their mellow R&B tracks. Then there was a stripped-down quintet who churned out some seriously bangers. Both were captivating, although the dancefloor-friendly material definitely won the crowd over. Bonobo’s studio output tends to keep a lighter, feathery touch on the beats, but on Friday night the groove was front and centre. Jack Baker was a beast; the drummer worked the kit with razor-sharp precision yet stayed in the pocket the whole time.
The mix also allowed different elements of the tracks to shine through. The disembodied vocals on “Cirrus”, “Figures” and “Sapphire” were much more prominent, and reminded me of UK garage act Sepalcure. The African elements echoed St. Germain‘s recent work with sounds from Mali. One of the highlights was “7th Sevens” which was kind of forgettable on record, but shone live. The short percussion sample woven throughout the song was the perfect flourish to propel the beat forward, and a great example of the attention to detail that makes his music so compelling.
The group was backed by three video screens which featured carefully curated visuals. Songs with Szjerdene had slow shots of desert landscapes filmed from above, probably inspired by Green’s new surroundings. The higher tempo numbers switched to abstract geometric shapes and fractals. The screens were nice complements to the music and it all added up to an extremely satisfying package.
LA-based musician NoMBe (gallery here) opened the evening. I had checked out a few of his tracks before the show, and was impressed by his take on electro-soul. For his Vancouver set he performed as a quartet, performing a decidedly rock ‘n’ roll set. It was somewhat jarring to hear such a departure in sound, but that’s really my fault for bringing expectations to the table.