To some people, music just comes naturally, and Simon Green is one of them. Genuinely flawless in his production, Green aka Bonobo has released album after album of breathtakingly beautiful music, managing to combine elements of electronica and house with a strong basis in jazz to create atmospheric and emotional electronic art. Sometimes shimmering with ethereal warmth, other times falling heart wrenchingly close to cinematic sorrow, Bonobo songs are as human as their creator, demonstrating an extraordinarily rare talent that seems it can do no wrong. Choosing just five of those songs to class as “Essential” is an impossible task, but here’s our best attempt.
In truth, the whole of Black Sands is completely essential, but we’ll highlight this one because it sets the album up with the most perfect of starts. Strings and a piano dance around one another with the refined culture of a ballroom dance during the prelude, making way for a cruise through luscious downtempo house as Kiara kicks in.
Days To Come wasn’t half bad either, with guest appearances from Bajka and Fink adding plenty of human soul to the carefully placed instrumentation. Perhaps the standout, “Ketto” is near enough instrumental, with only the faintest hint of a breathy, swooning vocal weaving its way through after an intro that stutters delicately through a sample of Stomu Yamashta’s “Mysteries of Love”.
Another demonstration of his melodic prowess and immaculate production, Cirrus is a masterclass in how to build anticipation, cycling through loops of percussion and hammered melodies with the subtlest of changes. Each layer enters the fray without disrupting the listen or diverting the attention, merely adding to the sense that the track is building towards an emotional crescendo. When the crescendo doesn’t come, it doesn’t even matter; “Cirrus” is all about the journey.
First Fires (Ft. Grey Reverend)
Grey Reverend lends his vocal talent to a track that builds through Simon Green’s signature strings work and sparse jazz-influenced percussion. Slow, melancholic and irresistible, it’s a heart sweller from start to finish, draped in an almost funeral rawness at points as it sails from calm interludes to extraordinary tension with a grace unknown to all but the very best producers.
Stay the Same ft Andreya Triana
Trying to pick one of Bonobo’s collaborations with Andreya Triana to name as the essential piece is no easy task; in truth, they’re a heavenly match and everything they’ve done together has been wonderful. This time round “Stay The Same” has edged it, with the soft squeaks of a hand moving up a fretboard highlighting the way in which Bonobo makes tracks sound like they’re being played live in the room with you. Softer, cleaner, smoother.
Bonobo will be playing live at various locations this summer, and can be caught at both Citadel and Wilderness Festival. Taking place at Victoria Park on Sunday 16th July, Citadel will feature further sets from Foals, Wild Beasts and plenty more, whilst Wilderness will bring Grace Jones, Two Door Cinema Club and First Aid Kit to Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire from Thursday 3rd to Sunday 6th August.
Photo courtesy of The Windish Agency