Bonobo’s Ark 2018
Taking Canterbury to Tokyo, the trio of pixies pixelate their melodic madness for all to enjoy and join in.
It’s a short yet poignant DVD. Due to deteriorating health, Daevid Allen wasn’t able to join his YOU, ME & US colleagues, Yumi Hara and Chris Cutler, on their new trip to Japan – and their previous visit to the Land of the Rising Sun, in a previous year, became his last. Fortunately, part of the group’s performance was preserved for posterity, to become a souvenir not only for those fans who kept tickets for the Allen-less shows but for a wider circle of avant-garde aficionados.
Though the document is flawed in terms of video quality, its energy levels are high, once the squeal of Daevid’s six strings get complemented with his wail, creating an eerie effect for Chris’ drums to anchor and Yumi keyboards to give additional colors to. As the sounds become more profound, there’s blues oozing out of this depth, and the whiteness of Allen’s guitar, hair and jacket infuses it all with elevated elegance which strikes a harmony with the black color of Hara’s grand piano whose skittering notes are fed into the scat that forms the mantra of “I Don’t, Can’t” – introducing, in the band’s own words, the language of the freak.
The trio shape a proper groove for Yumi’s staple "Statement Heels" which is spiked and spiced with Daevid’s glissandi here – so much so that one member of the audience begins to pogo-dance – and the exquisite keyboard piece attains another dimension, while “Madamme O” is a lounge-like recital in both piano and poetry terms, as Allen is half-reading, half-singing erotic verses from a sheet of paper, while Hara lets ivories do the taking. Her vocalise and Allen’s stanzas interweave to unleash a mesmeric miasma of “Happiness” and bring forth a boisterous improvisation pouring over into the riff-laden “Da-i-na-ma-i-to/Deta” – an expanded update of GONG’s “Dynamite” – that sees her stand up and exhort expletives.
There couldn’t be a more perfect example of this small ensemble’s attitude, and for all the imperfections of the recording it’s a vital document of the trio’s tentative potential.