LA native Stephen Bruner aka Thundercat, is a man of taste. He is the studio and touring bassist for Flying Lotus (who produced The Golden Age…., perhaps a return favour for Bruner’ playing on Cosmogramma). His record features guests like Erykah Badu and members of Sa-Ra. He plays bass for Suicidal Tendencies. He covers George Duke tracks (and has also performed with him). Hell, he’ even titled him self after an 80′ cartoon. Roll all of this together and you get an artist with real sonic heritage and ability; the only type of artist who could pull of a debut as gravity defying as The Golden Age of Apocalypse.
The release opens with the characteristic â€œHooooooâ€ from the children’s cartoon of the same name strapped over a George Duke sample, and sets the tone instantly. “Daylight’s sweats and oozes funk, all falsetto vocals and noodling Rhodes piano. Synth stabs permeate intermittently, before swirling and squiggling away into the background. Heady stuff. “Fleer Ultra’ explodes with instrumental virtuosity. It’s a well known fact that Bruner is a stunningly accomplished bassist, and he has no qualms in informing us as such; rapid-fire fret runs and 2 minute plus solos are all over this release. But instead of sounding like a thinly veined “bassist record’, the opposite is the case. The mix is so well crafted that each note complements the track it embodies, instead of overriding it. “Is It Love’ begins in solid ballad territory, before blasting into the stratosphere on the back of a speaker shredding bass solo. The final minute segues into “For Love I Come’, a cover track of the imitable George Duke, and is easily one of the best covers i’ve ever heard. It glides with the wistful spirit of the original, before shifting up a gear and shuffling into the night. Tonally it could be from the same record. Brilliant. “Jamboree’ sounds for all purposes like a Billy Cobham track, quickly shuffling drums blanketed in squelchy synth lines and stabs. It breaks down 3/4 through, transforming into a rapid fusion freakout. Samba style percussion opens “Boat Cruise’, before queasy synth strings and vocals push it into bass wah funk territory. “Goldenboy”s simple sounding drum loop stutters through 5/4 verses before conventional 4/4 breaks up the groove. Slow morphing notes slide and roll over the top of an overdriven bassline. “Walkin’â€ is the quintessential funk ballad, la-la-la vocal choirs ride through the verses like young love in flared jeans. “Mystery Machine (The Golden Age of Apocalypse)’ could be the soundtrack form an early sixties horror noir, or even The House of Wax (Vincent Price’ version, not Paris Hilton’). “Return to the Journey’ has closing duties, using the same chords as “Fleer Ultra’ but rearranged into a slower step, it sails with oohhhs and aahhhs vocals and tinkling electric pianos, before synth strings carry it off into the night.
Using old school composition and mixing combined with modern world instrumentation and sounds, Thundercat has really pulled out something special on his debut record. A pure slice of cryogenically frozen mid “70s funk fusion, and another stunning release from the Brainfeeder stable. An amazing record.