Bonobo / Brasstronaut
Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC June 30
It was obvious from the get-go that the sound guy had big job bringing the mix for Brasstronaut's set into balance, with the vocals overbearing in the opening seconds and feedback creeping in here and there. As such, the Vancouver collective started a little slow, but by the end of the first song, they fell into a groove. Lead singer/pianist Edo Van Breemen felt comfortable enough by the third song to dedicate a track to his mother, who was in attendance, and ask his hometown crowd to buy her a drink or smoke her up, saying she probably hadn't done the latter in 30 years.
Brasstronaut's material, largely pulled from their Polaris Music Prize-nominated debut Mt. Chimaera, came off more dynamic and progressive than on record, taking the audience for a trip with each piece. Granted, Van Breemen's voice is not tremendously strong, but he and the band, especially clarinetist Sam Davidson and trumpeter Bryan Davies, were endearing and captivating performers.
Later on, smoke bellowed out and filled the room as an ambient intro delivered Bonobo to the stage. The fog was so dense that it was hard to tell how many people were playing, but eventually the group of six were revealed as they reinterpreted mostly newer selections from Simon "Bonobo" Green's growing catalogue, with Simon himself moving around between bass, samplers and anything else that would let him control the lowest frequencies. They were often joined by self-taught singer Andreya Triana, a major contributor to 2010's Black Sands.
As Bonobo's brand of downtempo and trip-hop was made extra lush and vibrant with the full-band setup, one could see parallels between them and recent Vancouver visitors Massive Attack performing with their muse Martina Topley-Bird. Though the political outrage and guttural intensity was not on par, Triana has an undeniably beautiful voice, right up there with Topley-Bird, and Green's ensemble cast were as tight as you could program, with a surprisingly rich and full sound. They left no question as to why they are one of Ninja Tune's biggest names.
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