Thundercat – The Golden Age of Apocalypse

January 01, 1970



Who would have thought the new face of modern music in South
Central Los Angeles would be the bass playing son of a former Temptations
drummer who learned how to use his instrument by practicing to the soundtrack
for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? But
that’s only a fraction of the history of young Stephen Bruner, aka Thundercat,
who is bringing his once gang-riddled region of California back to the days when it held
property to one of the West Coast’s most vibrant jazz scenes.


Bruner’s short but storied career has seen him tour Japan
with soul great Leon Ware, log studio time with the likes of Eric Benet, Snoop
Dogg and bass hero Stanley Clarke and join the ranks of Cali thrash greats
Suicidal Tendencies, with whom he remains an active member. However, it took
the goading of good friend Flying Lotus, whose acclaimed 2010 LP Cosmogramma (reviewed here) was made
all the more awesome thanks to Bruner and his lighting quick bass lines, to
release an album of his own compositions did Thundercat finally emerge from
under the bed of tape fright to create his debut full-length.


Entitled The Golden
Age of Apocalypse
and issued earlier this month by the Brainfeeder label, it
has already been hailed by BBC radio guru Gilles Peterson as “the most
essential bass player’s album since Jaco Pastorius’ Jaco Pastorius.” And when you first put the proverbial needle
on this record, you will be instantly aware that’s not just some rote hype
talk. This is an astral traveling explosion of virtuosic swagger that brings
together artful R&B, abstract hip-hop and full-blown fusion jazz, abetted
by co-production from Lotus and accented with contributions from Erykah Badu,
members of the daftly underrated Sa-Ra Creative Partners and ‘Cat’s
Grammy-winning brother Ronald Bruner, Jr. on drums.


Tracks like “Daylight,” “Fleer Ultra,” “Boat
Cruise” and “Jamboree” definitely may have more in common with
mid-70s Roy Ayers and Weather Report than the urban IDM science thrown down by
Thundercat’s Brainfeeder labelmates Samiyam and The Gaslamp Killer. But the way
by which he approaches that particular era in electric jazz is brought forth
with a similarity that also recalls the beats of MF Doom, whose influence you
can directly hear on the 22-second opening cut “Hoooooo,” which utilizes
the same George Duke sample that the Villainous One utilizes on his Operation: Doomsday banger “I Hear
Voices.” In fact, the very song teased on that intro track, “For Love I
Come,” is given the full coverage treatment on Apocalypse, as Mr. Duke’s otherwise kinetic 1975 funk joint is
slowed down to about half its original speed and transformed into an
intergalactic slow jam that sounds strangely like the incidental music from The Goonies (the scene when Mikey steals
a kiss from his brother’s girl Andy). Bruner’s CTI dreams are further fulfilled
on cuts such as “Is It Love?” and “Goldenboy,” suggesting Squarepusher
sitting in on a lost Idris Muhammad session, while “Walkin'” finds
the Cat muscling into Dâm-Funk territory
by shifting gears into the smoothed out synth-funk of the early-to-mid ‘80s,
harboring the flavor of vintage Shalamar. Meanwhile, the Doom influence comes
full circle on “Mystery Machine (The Golden Age of Apocalypse),” which
makes no secret of Bruner’s love for old Hanna-Barbera cartoons by flipping the
script on the essence of Saturday morning in ways the networks could never


A musician’s musician in every sense of the word, what
Thundercat has created with The Golden
Age of Apocalypse
is the sonic equivalent to a power-packed issue of Wax Poetics, bringing together several
disparate elements of one nation under a groove to build a challenging and
soulful playground for his indelible skills on the bass. If this is the kind of
stuff we should come to expect from a former sideman now transitioning to
center stage, heads are definitely in for some serious fun after the Rapture.



DOWNLOAD: “Daylight,” “Fleer Ultra,” “For Love I Come,” “Is It Love,”
“Walkin'” RON HART





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