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Album Review: The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam [EP] by Thundercat
Great, Based on 9 Critics
The 405 - 85 Based on rating 8.5/10
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Stephen Bruner is having one hell of a year. First, he featured prominently on Kendrick Lamar's surefire classic, To Pimp A Butterfly, where he undoubtedly played a major role in crafting the funky jazz instrumentation that earned rave reviews from critics the world over. Then, Bruner, better known my his nom de guerre Thundercat, again starred in a jazz setting by providing slick electric bass to fellow Kendrick collaborator Kamasi Washington's unimpeachable masterpiece, The Epic.
In the two years since his last album, Apocalypse, Californian bassist Stephen Bruner has lent his nimble fingers to Kamasi Washington's The Epic, Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly and Flying Lotus's You're Dead!. To recap: that's a three-hour jazz odyssey, hip-hop's most powerful magnum opus in recent memory, and a concept album about death. No mean feat, then, that his new six-track mini-LP as Thundercat, The Beyond / Where The Giants Roam, isn't overshadowed.And yet we do find Bruner in the shadows here.
The EP format isn't where artists tend to make big statements, with the possible asterisk-style exception of Robyn (whose Body Talk series eventually resulted in a proper, long-playing release anyway). Instead, a short-form release suggests anxious label-heads putting pressure on an artist to release something, anything, as soon as possible. But that's not at all the aura projected by this spellbinding, 16-minute, six-track sequence from Thundercat—an artist who has been in the public eye plenty this year already, thanks to prominent spots on albums by Kendrick Lamar and Kamasi Washington.
In contrast to 2013’s more eccentric Apocalypse, Thundercat’s The Beyond is an introverted mini-album that, rather than leaping out of the speakers, tumbles and unfurls. Clocking in at just 16 minutes, the bass virtuoso wrote it in conjunction with his innovative work on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead! Amid its textured, timeless, transcendental grooves, he grapples with the death of friends and the end of a relationship – here the eerie ambience of Radiohead meets the warmth and virtuosity of jazz fusionist Stanley Clarke. Them Changes, a funk track co-produced with Flying Lotus, is built from an Isley Brothers drum sample, maple bass and the Moogerfooger effects unit; elsewhere chords collide with falsetto choral vocals and subtle percussion.
Under the stage name Thundercat, Los Angeles-based Stephen Bruner has had an interesting musical career to date. His brand awareness has spiked thanks to his showing on Kendrick Lamar's masterpiece, To Pimp a Butterfly, and his collaborations with Flying Lotus have been well documented and received. So when this "mini-album" titled The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam was recently announced — his first collection of work since 2013's Apocalypse — ears were perked.
Word to the Weeknd, Brainfeeder’s resident bass-playing psychonaut Thundercat is back and he can’t feel his face either. He says as much from the very first moments of his new EP, The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam, but it’s a seemingly familiar sentiment for those who’ve followed him since he first stepped out on his own. The man born Stephen Bruner has already written rapturous ballads about the mind-expanding benefits of DMT and Ecstasy, but this isn’t just druggy déjà vu — the numbness feels different, darker this time around.
Stephen Bruner’s corner of the music world continues to grow. The supremely talented bassist otherwise known as Thundercat made waves with solo LPs like 2013’s Apocalypse, but since that album’s release, he’s spent his time contributing to tsunami-like releases including Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead! and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, lending his instrumental prowess and emotive grace to a world in which the lines between hip-hop, jazz, and electronic music continue to blur. Riding that momentum back into his solo catalog, Bruner returns with the six-track “mini-album” The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam.
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Offering insight into the headspace of The Beyond / Where The Giants Roam, Steve “Thundercat” Bruner took to Twitter. “So stupid and pointless. We’re all gonna die anyway. What a way to waste mental space,” he tweeted in regard to the social turmoil and aggravated levels of racism in America.