Bonobo’s homegrown electronic empire

From Hampshire to Brighton to your ears and your bones, Bonobo has been honing his craft for a decade+. The North Borders is his latest record, one that needs to be heard and felt. Read about how he arrived there, right here.

Bonobo, aka Simon Green

In a world of multimillion-dollar record deals, flash-in-the-pan celebrityhood and overnight superstardom, Simon Green and his craft remain unmarred by the fast-paced and supersized nature of the mainstream music machine.

Green, known by his stage name Bonobo, has known humility since his music career began. He was brought up in a rural part of Hampshire, England, but at the age of 18, he hightailed it to Brighton, a smaller, musically inclined town cradled by the ocean on the country’s Southeastern edge. It was in Brighton that Green’s career began to quietly snowball, with the help of friend and fellow music aficionado Robert Luis.

“The first thing that happened was a very DIY project done by a friend of mine’s label,” says Green. “I was making a record out of my basement and he was running a label out of his kitchen, and people were into it.”

With a makeshift office once nestled under Luis’s staircase, this kitchen-based start-up is Tru Thoughts, now an established and esteemed independent label. (Ninja Tune represents Bonobo over here.) One of their first-ever releases was Bonobo’s debut record, Animal Magic, which was received with open arms and bottomless praise from critics across the board.

Animal Magic set the stage for the multitude of EPs, LPs and singles that followed, all the music handcrafted and self-produced.

“I’ve made [my records] all the same way — in a room in my house with headphones on at 4 a.m.,” says Green. “No engineers, no mastery — it just comes straight out of my house. I wouldn’t be able to work any other way.”

The fruit of his labour has been a consistent output of smooth, downtempo electronica that tears down the wall between man and machine. “My aesthetic is using electronic methods to make non-electronic music,” says Green. “It’s about keeping it human, remembering where you started out, and remembering the aesthetic of what I liked musically at the beginning, what it was that made me want to make music in the first place.”

As on each of his records, his latest, The North Borders, offers slow-building depth that seems to mirror the fruition of Bonobo’s fame. Kicking off with coursing basslines and moody flickers of staccato sweeps punctuating each track, the album is a deep-dish trip through a woven soundscape of electronic bliss.

“In the beginning, I didn’t really know what I was doing,” says Green. “I’ve been learning, alongside the technology developing, how to actually produce music, and the ins and outs. The first record was fairly basic in how it was produced, and I think this one has changed a lot. There are actual string sections and real studios.” ■

Bonobo plays Telus Theatre (1280 St-Denis) with Shigeto on Tuesday, April 16, 9 p.m., $28.25 (sold out)

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