Release Date: Aug 29, 2011
Record label: Brainfeeder
Genre(s): R&B, Pop/Rock, Fusion, Alternative R&B
Does anyone remember the last time jazz was this cool? Me neither. Five years ago, any mention of the genre would’ve sent the cool kids snickering back to the latest from LCD Soundsystem or The Strokes. And now, they’re the ones touting obscure Charles Mingus outtakes and hunting down first-run copies of Bitches Brew. What happened? Well, a lot of things, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to pin much of it on LA beat-alchemist Flying Lotus (too-often-spotlit Coltrane lineage aside).
As far as debut albums go, the The Golden Age of Apocalypse is definitely a head-spinner, precisely the sort of improbable hybrid from an almost-unknown artist that the Brainfeeder crew has come to specialize in over the last couple years. After all, it's not every day that you find a record that simultaneously recalls the laid-back sprawl of Erykah Badu's Return of the Ankh and the bustling mania of Mouse on Mars' Iaora Tahiti, the slick jazz futurism of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters and the gentle homespun soul of Bill Withers' Just As I Am. This is the sort of densely layered, expertly played, genre-crossing marvel that could easily turn bloated or excessive, or come off like a display of pure skill with little heart behind it.
Bassist Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner has been on a peculiar path. For a moment during the early 2000s, he was in No Curfew, a boy band successful enough to be included on German hits compilations beside Destiny’s Child and Gorillaz. He then joined his brother Ron, a Grammy-winning drummer, in the long-running skatepunk band Suicidal Tendencies.
Thundercat revels in funk. His debut full length, Golden Age of the Apocalypse, is awash in it. He and production ace Flying Lotus have teamed up to bathe your eardrums in bouncy synthesizers, chopped up drum beats, layered bass lines and old school samples. It sounds like 1990’s Squarepusher teaming up with George Clinton.
From what I understand, Thundercat mastermind Stephen Bruner seems to be a truly admirable character. Never once distracted by narcissistic concerns of fame and success, the man’s been quietly contributing his cosmic bass touch to projects from Sucidal Tendancies to Sa-Ra Creative Partners to Snoop Dogg over the duration of his adult life. It was only with the encouragement of friend and similarly cloistered sonic experimenter Flying Lotus (who would later become The Golden Age of Apocalypse’s producer; the pair previously worked together on last year’s FlyLo release Cosmogramma) that Bruner began to allow his own music to shoot off into the stratosphere.
Could 2011 be the Year of the Thundercat? Cartoon Network just unveiled a surprisingly watchable reboot of the ‘80s action staple and now bassist Stephen “Thundercat” Brunner, whose liquid basslines propelled Flying Lotus’s excellent Cosmogramma, is also attempting a reboot of sorts. With The Golden Age of the Apocalypse, he moves from sideman to solo artist, and serves up gnarly jazz-funk variations on L.A.-style electronica. Brunner’s impressive CV includes sessions with Erykah Badu and a 10-year tenure with Suicidal Tendencies, which means, as far as new listeners should be concerned, there’s nothing he can’t do with his bass.
Stephen Bruner loves the intergalactic cartoon felines Thundercats so much, he took their name as his own. After that, the fact that Bruner is both the bassist for Suicidal Tendencies and responsible for this album of electro-jazz fusion doesn't quite seem so odd. Part of Flying Lotus's Brainfeeder collective, Bruder has tapped into the vein established by Lotus's Cosmogramma LP of last year; a continuum where breakbeats and solo extemporisation are paired with abstract sounds, and use of the word "astrality" is encouraged.
"Lots of people ask me about Thundercat, and how I come to know this guy. Thing is you've been hearing him for years and probably didn't even know it," suggested Flying Lotus (aka Steven Ellison) prior to this much anticipated release. Son of Temptations session drummer Ronald Bruner, this Los Angeles raised "mutant jazz cat" has played bass alongside everyone from Erykah Badu to Stanley Clarke, even touring with soul legend Leon Ware when he was just 16.
Some super talented old hippies may never understand the magic that is an artist like Flying Lotus, what with all his computer and video game noises and galactic low-end approach to a similarly tie-dyed view of life. The same cannot be said for The Golden Age Of Apocalypse, the debut solo album by FlyLo’s partner in space-age chillcore, Stephen Bruner, now and forevermore known as Thundercat. The Golden Age Of Apocalypse is not only Thundercat’s first solo effort, but it is something of a far cry from his work as Suicidal Tendencies‘ aggro-funk bassist back when he was more hardcore than chillcore.
Specially made for a long, hot, daydream-filled summer. Colin Buttimer 2011 Thundercat is bass-playing Los Angeles native Stephen Brunner. If the name's unfamiliar, know that he's played bass for Suicidal Tendencies, Sa-Ra Creative Partners and latterly Flying Lotus (on Cosmogramma). In return, FlyLo is on production duty for The Golden Age of Apocalypse, Brunner’s solo debut under this moniker.