The Golden Age of Apocalypse

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Label: Brainfeeder

With a resumé that rivals just about any modern indie bassist – having worked with Erykah Badu, Flying Lotus and numerous others – it’s fitting that Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner has finally put his mad chops down on a record of his own. As his moniker seems to suggest, Bruner’s sonic palette consists of manic, P-Funk inspired grooves that often cross paths with the digital blips present in video games and cartoons. The resulting grab bag of genres present on The Golden Age of Apocalypse is fascinating, but not without a few missteps along the way.

You get the sense right off the bat that this record is going to go by in a flash, like a fleeting moment of nostalgia. The 23-second opener “HooooooO” is pure indulgence, a winking ode to pop culture, its George Duke sample smoothly playing out underneath the bellow of the sampled “Thundercats” theme song. It flies by quickly, transporting us into the Casio-and-acoustic contrast of “Daylight,” a wonderfully frenetic pseudo-R&B tune. The ’80s tinge of “Fleer Ultra” works in similar fashion, taking funk and fusion jazz and transplanting it alongside modern electronica and dubstep. The first half of The Golden Age of Apocalypse revels in these sorts of mash-ups, giddily ripping through a host of influences on tracks that rarely reach the three minute mark. It’s an intoxicating experience and even though it doesn’t reach the aspired heights of its most obvious influence – Flying Lotus, who produced this album – it manages to carve out its own unique and compelling soundscape.

The second half of the record looks to add a little more flow to the ebb by slowing down the pace and letting Bruner’s falsetto work overtop of R&B grooves. Though the beats and production created by Bruner and FlyLo are admirable, Bruner’s vocal performances, usually designated as a guest spot on other artists’ records, sound occasionally flat. He does little to elevate the spotty sonics of “Boat Cruise” while he quickly squanders the potential post-Michael Jackson vibe of “Walkin’.” Still, Bruner has his moments of salvation. He sounds right at home alongside the laidback, funky groove of “Is It Love?” and equally as confident on the sultry, previously-sampled George Duke cover “For Love I Come,” both of which come early in the album and perfectly complement the hyper-bass feel of “Fleer Ultra” and the jittery “Jamboree.”

Though The Golden Age of Apocalypse is a sometimes-inconsistent record, it’s also a promising slice of experimentation. Bruner is a confident vocalist and his instrumental compositions are among the best in the business. You’d be hard pressed to find a bassist pushing the limits of his instrument the way Bruner does here, like the Colin Stetson of groovy bass lines. The constantly shifting sonic palette, from the sweet and mellow “Is It Love?” to the spastic, claustrophobic “Fleer Ultra,” shows that Thundercat has a wide range of skills and influences that he can wield with an uncanny amount of inspiration and creativity. Here’s hoping that on the next record, Bruner applies them with a little more precision.

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