Experimental jazz-fusion may sound like a redundant phrase, but it’s probably the best way to describe bassist/ vocalist Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner’s genre eluding debut album without confusing the fuck out of you. Wedged between his alliance with a closed circuit of lauded Afro futurists (Erykah Badu, Sa-Ra Creative Partners, Flying Lotus) and his coveted spot as a member of influential thrash metal band Suicidal Tendencies, the L.A. native is somewhat of an anomaly. Top that off with an ornate pair of stunna shades and an indigenous American feathered headdress and you’ve got quite a ball of eccentricity on your hands. Likewise, The Golden Age of Apocalypse finds Thundercat thumping his mighty instrument until the confining genre walls come tumbling down.
With Flying Lotus at the helm, the almighty God of the beat scene, Thundercat is given free range to explore the sonic waters of both charted and uncharted territories near and far. Following an intro using a slice of the original George Duke tune he covers down the road, interspersed with a sound byte from the popular 1980s cartoon series of his namesake, the eclectic funkateer gets down to serious business. “Daylight,” a new wave menagerie of raw bass, soaring synth strings, and vocalese, spirals into a charming little vamp that evokes scant traces of Joe Jackson’s 1982 hit “Steppin’ Out.”
“Is It Love” finds Thundercat musing over a relationship in flux with likes like “Was it wrong for you to belong to me?” and “I let you out of my sight, but you were stir crazy looking for the next best thing.” Though the track paces along with just as much orthodoxy as Thundercat can concede to, it ends with a beautiful, yet unexpected minute-long epilogue preceded by a short symphonic movement. So much for convention. One of the best cuts here is Thundercat’s rendition of George Duke’s sleeper 1975 album cut “For Love I Come.” Slowed down by 50 bpm, Thundercat dives into falsetto territory with aplomb. But again, the last minute of the song unexpectedly shifts gears – accelerating to 135 bpm to match wits with Duke’s original.
On the brilliantly mellow “Goldenboy,” Thundercat toys with time signatures, cooing Moogs, and a melodic bass technique that would make Jaco Pastorious proud. The noteworthy “Walkin’” is about as close to convention as Thundercat comes here. The tune struts in all its 80s glory like a would-be Michael McDonald demo submission for Eddie Murphy’s 1984 Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack.
Accented with Hanna Barbara sound effects, “Mystery Machine (The Golden Age Of Apocalypse)” lurks ominously along as if it were incidental music from a Saturday morning episode of Scooby Doo.
While some cuts here sound more like unfinished jam sessions than completed thoughts (“It Really Doesn’t Matter To You,” “Jamboree”), most of the material here is as amazing as it is perplexing. Though it may not be the knock out aural masterpiece one would expect from the likes of a Flying Lotus production, The Golden Age of Apocalypse excels by harnessing the spirits of Pastorious, Sun-Ra, and other left-of-center demigods, dazzling us with FlyLo and Bruner’s unique brand of collaborative eccentric genius.
– Rico a.k.a. Superbizzee