Bonobo, Monkeyseemonkeydo lulls Leeds' university crowd

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Bonobo

Letters from Leeds is a feature by Gazette writer, Gennelle Smith, who is currently on exchange in England and will be dispatching articles about the local music scene to Canada.

Bonobo w/ Monkeyseemonkeydo
Nov. 8 @ Stylus

LEEDS, UK " It takes a special skill to hold an audience’s attention when your music is almost entirely instrumental.

Yet last night, two increasingly popular British down tempo bands proved it is easy, handily capturing and holding the interest of a gradually growing crowd of mostly Leeds University students with a beat-driven, happy mix of classic British cool.

First to take the stage as part of The Faversham’s New Bohemia concert series was Leeds/Manchester outfit Monkeyseemonkeydo, which lulled the crowd into an easy mood with rolling guitar riffs and laid-back grooves.

The band’s mix of funk and hip-hop allowed the three members to seamlessly switch beats; one second the crowd was listening to a Roots-like melody and the next, what could have been a funk instrumental over the credits of a blaxploitation film.

Later in the set, the night’s MC, a dreadlocked individual named Alex, freestyled catchy rap vocals over the band’s chill melodies and drew the hipsters from the bar to the dance floor in the process.

As Monkeyseemonkeydo took its leave, the night’s headliner, British DJ, composer and musician Bonobo (Simon Green), took over and lead his six-piece funk ensemble into the first of many lively, winding tracks.

Bonobo got his start DJing in Brighton, England when he was just 18, and he’s been recording and performing across the UK and steadily gaining popularity ever since.

His first album, Animal Magic (2000), is considered one of the first “down tempo” records ever released; his unique style incorporates multiple instruments and world influences as well as diverse guest vocalists.

Songs from his two followups, Dial ‘M’ for Monkey (2002) and Days to Come (2005), have been used for video games as well as Bonobo’s own music compilation, released in 2005.

Bonobo proved himself a musical virtuoso in live performance, playing the keyboard, cello and bass at different points and providing a perfect backdrop for guest vocalist, soul singer Audrana.

Audrana’s voice was something to behold. Not unlike Mark Ronson’s recent collaboration with Amy Winehouse on his hit, “Valerie,” Audrana infused Bonobo’s “If I Could” with slick, warm vocals reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday.

With relaxing beats intertwined with haunting string-powered pieces, Bonobo had the crowd on the same page " even as many went off to dance by themselves.

In the crowded British music scene, Bonobo’s knack for creating an affinity with his listeners points to an above-average musical talent that has changed and expanded with each album.

If the current trend of producers simultaneously playing the roles of musician and headliner continues (Ronson, Timbaland and Pharrell Williams included), Bonobo’s profile is sure to rise in Britain, if not internationally.

But that night, the audience was satisfied to sway to the bands and enjoy a brief reprieve from the stress of student life. Bonobo and his band, coaxing their instruments to do their bidding under Stylus’ glaring red lights, were happy to oblige.

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