New Music: Thundercat – Apocalypse



4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Oh Sheit It’s X”
“Lotus and the Jondy”

Album Highlights: The intergalactic, funk spaceship piloted by the virtuous Stephen Bruner, aka Thundercat, continues to plunge the depths of the galaxy with his latest release Apocalypse. Ever wonder what a more contemporary version of Jamiroquai with vocals by Pharrell Williams would sound like? It would sound a good amount like Apocalypse. Alright, now that you have a general idea of what this Los Angeles native sounds like, let’s delve into what makes this album such a blast to listen to while being a sonic success.

One aspect of this release that lends to it’s greatness is the co-production of one Stephen Ellison, popularly known as Flying Lotus. Both artist have been longtime members of the Brainfeeder label and cross pollinate regularly, as Thundercat lent his skills to Until the Quiet Comes in a big way. The sublime combination of sultry space-funk and off-kilter beats creates something familiar but uniquely fresh and dynamic. Furthermore, this album isn’t trying to be a Billboard top-seller or something more than the sum of it’s parts. It’s avant-garde, futuristic, and left-leaning while projecting a massively wide range of appeal to a varied audience.

Songs like “Oh Sheit It’s X” combine funkified disco grooves that would light any dance floor in the 70’s on fire with it’s bubbly, complex bass lines and flying synths. Some could dismiss it as campy, but the track’s strength in arrangement and production would disprove any naysayer in seconds. “A Message for Austin” closes the album on a rather sad note, as Bruner pens a song to the recently deceased Brainfeeder artist and longtime member of Thundercat, Austin Peralta. It’s a truly touching track dedicated to a talented young musician taken all too soon.

Album Lowlight: Thundercat’s previous release, The Golden Age of Apocalypse, showcased Bruner’s bass playing mastery a bit more. This is minor, especially as the song-writing skills of Bruner have grown considerably stronger over the past few years. But, overall, there are few flaws with Apocalypse, in fact it’s ultimately refreshing to see a creation that isn’t trying to be anything more than Thundercat’s true vision.

Takeaway: In an era when virtuosic instrumentation doesn’t mean as much as one’s ability to twist knobs and hit buttons, it’s refreshing to hear albums like Apocalypse. Thundercat is an artist who dances to beat of his own drum, er, I mean bass. His dynamic live show has been winning accolades for years, as his set at Coachella 2012 drew this writer in, hook, line and sinker. Whether leading his stellar band in mind-blowing instrumental grooves or belting out one of his soul-funk tunes to the ladies in the front row, Thundercat is a competent musician all around who deserves more attention.

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