Bonobo: Turning Trinkets Into Soundscapes

Performing under the stage name Bonobo, British DJ and composer Simon Green crafts ambient, orchestral soundscapes with an ear toward lush elegance.

"It's informed by many different aspects of the musical spectrum," Green says, when asked to name the genres he listened to in his youth.

In the electronic music world, Bonobo is a star. He's on tour for his latest album, Black Sands, and is about to embark on the European leg. Unlike many DJs and producers who compose and perform off their laptops, Green performs his music with a full band, which numbers as many as 15 members.

"I want to try and be as representative of the process as I can," Green says of his live performance. "Rather than just playing back samples and sounds from a laptop, I try and break it down to the original parts that went into the process."

Among the musicians touring with him is British vocalist Andreya Triana. The two had hit it off after he recruited her to perform for a last-minute show. A contributor on Black Sands, she says his "amazing soundscapes" never fail to impress her.

"We went into his kitchen and got all of these little trinkets and made all of these intricate sounds," Triana says. "It just keeps growing the more that you hear it — especially if you're in a really quiet place, somewhere where you can really listen. There are very few musicians or producers that do that nowadays."

The instrumentation on Black Sands is complex.  "Stay the Same" contains a nylon guitar, a ukulele, sequenced drums and a harp and piano that have both been electronically altered. In spite of the difficult arrangement, Green says his goal is simple: to emotionally engage the listener.

"I make music that I consider to be very personal," he says. "I think the main aspect is to make it as human as possible."

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