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BBC Radio 6 Music Festival: Bonobo, Thundercat & Songhoy Blues @ Barrowland Ballroom

ByAlasdair Flett

Apr 5, 2017

LA-based but Brighton-born electronica producer, Bonobo headlined the Barrowland Ballroom on the Saturday of the BBC 6music Festival in Glasgow. Bringing a talented array of musicians, he effuses tracks that already exist as meticulously honed studio efforts with a new exhilarating vitality. The sprung floor of the much-loved dance venue is put to good use by the invigorated crowd.

Virtuoso electro-funk bassist Thundercat opened proceedings bolstered by an equally masterful drummer and keyboardist to make up an unconventional power trio. With a somewhat rocky start due to the balance not being mixed quite properly, they went on to wow with supreme musicianship and sumptuously phat grooves. Thundercat has worked with some high-profile collaborators such as Kendrick Lamar on his Grammy award-winning 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly, airing a track taken from this project entitled ‘These Walls’. There were however, some unusual aspects of the show, perhaps due to the eclectic nature of the act more than anything else, such as Thundercat’s airy falsetto contrasting oddly with his sonorous chat between songs and the, while impressive, jazz fusion breaks’ tendency to lose the crowd’s attention.

Next came a set from loveable four-piece, Songhoy Blues  whose harrowing backstory stands in stark opposition to their infectious positivity (the band fled from Timbuktu after the imposition of state-sponsored Sharia Law in Mali). The band’s frontman whipped up the audience into euphoric joy, abandoning the guitar in the second song in favour of endearing inhibition-less dance moves. He gleefully announces that their bass player is a stand-in, having only had two hours of rehearsal! Their twangy, stomping sound as much as their heartening optimism won over everyone in the room.

As an admittedly only dimly aware onlookers when it comes to Bonobo’s back catalogue, this set served as a thrilling initiation into the diverse world of the multi-faceted musician. Bonobo teased the audience with tantalising crescendos that came to nothing in a way that felt non-manipulative in comparison to many a contemporary DJ. He acted as a conductor, standing surrounded by synths in the centre, controlling the low-end sounds on keys and bass guitar, flanked by baseball-capped drummer and pianist to his far left and right respectively with a wind trio of clarinet (occasionally flute), fugal horn and trombone by his right hand and guitarist to his left. A singer joined the band for some tunes, resplendently bedecked in an almost sculptural dress, but the mix failed to convey the subtleties of her timbre and lacked distinction above the magnificent cacophony.

Bonobo has the ability to make the night crackle with sophisticated intensity. His understanding and care when it comes to the percussive aspects of his soundscapes shine through and is particularly noticeable when complemented by the crisp metallic snare tones employed by his live drummer. An expansive, nuanced and interesting sound is seemingly inexhaustible. This is a musician in his creative prime asserting an encompassing and fully-fledged artistic vision.

The latest album Migration came out at the beginning of this year (13 January).


Image Credit: Amy Hawkins, BBC

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