ACL Review: Bonobo

UK spinner’s live band aesthetic turns epic

Cradled by swashes of warm yellow and orange lights from the Tito’s tent early Friday evening, British DJ Bonobo (Simon Green) stood behind boards of keys and electronics, flanked by a quartet consisting of a drummer, guitarist, an interchanging flutist, and a keyboardist.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Though soft, reverberated keys and subtle atmospherics in opener “Migration” would have better suited an intimate, enclosed venue, the song’s culmination of impressive drum work left festivalgoers raving.

Bonobo’s career spans nearly two decades, but his current output, Migration (January 2017), backboned the hourlong set. Unlike former albums Animal Magic (2000) and Black Sands (2010), the new one abandons downtempo buildups in favor of dynamic textures situated somewhere between Boards of Canada and Four Tet. Live, it all noodled with the improvisational mechanics of jazz.

Even in moments that mirrored Bonobo’s usual DJ sets of jagged synths and climatic junctures, the instrumentation balanced fragmented descents, tranquil lulls, earnest summits, and everything in between. Assisted by songstress Szjerdene, “Towers” and “Surface” gleaned a pop sensibility rarely seen in Bonobo’s former work as her crisp rasp floated like plumes of smoke over languid melodies.

Switching between bass and synth in songs “Figures” and “7th Sevens,” Bonobo demonstrated his knack for emotive instrumentation that swells into stacked layers of shimmering flute flutters, serrated percussion fills, and blooming stringed swirls. From the start of his live band tours in 2014 with The North Borders, Bonobo and company inject a vitality that allows the subtle material to blossom into live and longing epics.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Bonobo
Animal Magic
Animal Magic
Bonobo makes a rare appearance in the wild

Chase Hoffberger, April 15, 2010

More by Alejandra Ramirez
S.L. Houser’s Earnest “Wind in the Door” and Five More Songs From Austin Artists
S.L. Houser’s Earnest “Wind in the Door” and Five More Songs From Austin Artists
New music picks from Rod Gator, BLK ODYSSY, and Cloud Companion

June 2, 2023

Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
The Austin Record Convention, Cinco de Mayo Extravaganza, Pecan Street Festival, and UTOPiAfest lead our recommended shows this week

May 5, 2023


Bonobo, ACL Fest 2017, Simon Green, Boards of Canada, Four Tet

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle