Queen Bonobo’s engaging debut, Light Shadow Boom Boom, unites a broad array of textures into a coherent whole. Backed by a talented young group of Northern Irish jazz musicians, her ten tracks draw together the acousticism of jazz and directness of singer-songwriting with an expansive range of other sounds.
This eclecticism is no surprise – born in an Idaho forest, she has spent a lifetime on the move, pursuing spontaneous collaboration with musicians from all corners. The album showcases less idyllic themes too, with lyrics covering depression in the family and the difficulties of radical self-acceptance in changing circumstances. But the restorative power of music making is always at the core. In her words: “the title stands for the heavens above (light), the earth below (dark), and the pulse of life throughout it all”.
The Lord Does What He Wants, opening the album, places folksy melodising over joyous chord-strums, but the upbeat feel of the instruments is tinged with escapism too (“I’m plain dysfunctional…break me so I know nothing’s permanent”). Light Me Up moves from sultry jazz to cracking, imploring screams, and Shadow explores other shades of contrast, with light brushes of sax giving way to lilting solos. I hope future efforts could make even more space for these jazzy tradeoffs.
Honey’s brief stopover in 7/4 is balanced by the simple, earthy percussion of Boom Boom, reminiscent of Ibeyi’s back-to-nature approach. Inspired by the Appalachian Mountains, its signature line may serve as the album’s best summary: “My energy’s infectious, connected with the earth”.
Spin Me is unquestionably the album’s most intriguing track. Half-sketched melodies are pulled apart by a dream-swirl of languid synths, the music somehow seeming to rotate around itself without having a clear centrepoint. Perhaps this is what Boards of Canada would sound like if they tried to write catchy choruses?
The natural sincerity of Queen Bonobo’s voice superbly ties together the variety, elastically summoning energy and introspection in a fine balance. The album is a clear product of its situation – a collection of promising young musicians trying a range of styles on for size (I’ve seen some of the same group running soupy Bitches Brew-style riffs above a pub before turning off the amplifiers to cover tasteful acoustic ballads). This is an intriguing debut that bodes well for the future of all the artists at its core.
Get Light Shadow Boom Boom on Bandcamp!
-Maya Goldblum – lyrics, vocals, guitar, & production
-Daryl Coyle – production, drums, synth, backing vocals
-Jack Kelly – double bass and production
-Neil Burns – piano & keys
-Joseph Leighton – guitar
-Mateusz Jerzy Chmielewski – guitar
-Ciaran Wilde – saxophone
-James Anderson – percussion
-Jack Kelly, James Anderson, Joleen McLaughlin, Maryann McDonnell, Anna Nolan, Oisín Ó Scolaí, Feargus Murphy, Neil Burns – percussion on Vintage Gouda
-Niall Doran – engineering
-Ben McAuley – mixing
-Stephen Quinn – mastering
-Bryce Pedersen – album cover design
-Audrey Gillespie – album cover photo