Thundercat, The Golden Age of Apocalypse
An intoxicating elixir of progressive fusion, cosmic soul and Egyptological sci-fi
It’s almost impossible to square the intergalactic techno-funk of The Golden Age of Apocalypse with the fact that its creator, Stephen Bruner, has been the bassist with L.A. thrash outfit Suicidal Tendencies for almost a decade. What makes more sense is his current status as provider of Moebius strip basslines for the likes of Sa-Ra Creative Partners, Erykah Badu and Flying Lotus. Bruner’s solo debut – produced and released by FlyLo himself – comes right out of that newfound sonic territory you might call ‘the new weird Nubia’: an enchanting, intoxicating elixir of progressive fusion, cosmic soul and Egyptological sci-fi.
Bruner’s signature sound is a creaking-door bass, popping, twanging and contorting among layers of vintage electric keys and analogue synth portamentos. Opening with chunks of sampled George Duke and voices from the ’80s sword ‘n’ sorcery space opera referenced in his artist name, Bruner embarks on a fusion-funk odyssey. “Fleer Ultra”‘s labyrinthine chord changes sound as though Boards Of Canada are undergoing a masterclass with Jaco Pastorius, while “Walkin’” comes on like some parallel version of Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You.” Elsewhere there’s glitchy stutter-funk (“Jamboree”), loping Tribe Called Quest skank (“Seasons”), and stereo-panned symphonic soul (“Boat Cruise”).
But if all this sounds like a nerd’s paradise, be assured Thundercat is a romantic at heart. “Is It Love?” is an exquisite combination of pistoning drum machines, hazy vocals, jazz piano solos and sax licks. And he transforms George Duke’s “For Love (I Come Your Friend)” into a yearning, angel-voiced prayer with a live drum ‘n’ bass coda. The result is both truly mind-bending and disarmingly sensual, running its silken paw down the back of your neck.