Review: Thundercat – Apocalypse

The second full length release from jazz drummer’s son Stephen Bruner is heavily laden with funk, harmonies and the ever-ticking mind of Flying Lotus.

Thundercat__ApocalypseThundercat’s Apocalypse record was brought to our attention (and to the attention of many others) by the extensive commentary and lauding of co-producer Flying Lotus whose influence is so obviously stamped over  the record that it would be fair to call it a collaboration.The conundrum when having ‘FlyLo’ as the man behind the soundboard is that the artist is thrown into a whirlpool of beeps, whirrs, flanges and mechanics, which it can be hard to make your voice heard over.

Any worry of this being an issue with Thundercat is put to bed from the opening few lines of ‘Heartbreaks and Setbacks’ however,  which shows that Bruner has a soulful set of larynx at his disposal as well the ability to pen a hooky chorus line and an ear for the staple ‘oooo’ harmony. It’s apparent immediately that this is a collaboration beween two artists who genuinely love each other’s work and therefore the enjoyment of making these songs is passed on in the final product.

The album is a to-and-fro affair. Sometimes Thundercat is at the controls as beautiful soulful melodies lead at the forefront, then within a few minutes a whole track can disassemble into strange noises and awkward time signatures as Lotus shifts things back his way. This gives it pretty  interesting dynamic, like listening to somebody play an R&B vinyl whilst someone else puts deep scratches all across it and keeps flicking the speed switch. Neither seems to budge from their own objective and the tension that is created from this pulling in separate directions only adds to the final sound.

After a while of this ‘irresistible force versus immovable object’ type stuff, the whole thing magnificently  comes together on the stand out ‘Without You’ which has funk oozing out of with every soulful call and response, every soaking wet bass line and every ‘wah’ of the wah-wah pedal.  The track is beamed from the same strange galaxy that gave us Rick James, Parliament/Funkadelic and the finest Prince Records with the only issue being that as quickly as it arrived the album moves on again when that looping chorus could easily stretch to a ten minute extended jam.

However, it seems that both minds are too restless for such a long stop and slowly it descends back into the mad electronic outerspace that it came from. Even in the final softer moments of the album, the continual jumpy beats play on in the background,  jittering until the final minimal ending of ‘A Message for Austin’.

As a whole, Apocalypse begins in strangeness and slowly forms into a brief funky masterpiece before descending back out to the abstract again, all within the space of half an hour. It would be interesting to see what would be possible if both artists let the album breathe a little longer, but as a short and sharp record it has some fantastic moments.

7/10

You can purchase the album over at the Ninja Tune website. Go! Go! Go!

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