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. Thundercat’s solo debut sees the former thrasher digest and reflect his more recent work as a stanky bassmaster to Erykah Badu, Creative Partners and, of course, Flying Lotus, in an album that seamlessly blends computer-crafted sounds into 1970s jazz fusion with the skill and care of a mad good bassist.
For most of Thundercat’s compatriots on Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label, “bass” means beat and glug and low-end outer-space skrewery; for Thundercat “bass” means guitar, Victor Wooten-style gambols down a fretless neck into dreamy jazz-funk with a touch of synth or pitchy electronic effects. He has a welcome proclivity to indulgently radical solos on what is rumored to be a six-string bass, which, in tracks like “Fleer Ultra,” stand out due to their graceful mayhem and establish Thundercat as a musician with some serious chops—if that even needed to be established. The Golden Age Of Apocalypse is by and large a jazz/funk fusion album with an electronic edge, making it both approachable to anti-electro diehards who bemoan the death of talent in GarageBand-era music and entirely a product of this century rather than a rehash of some great retro classics.
The Golden Age Of Apocalypse is Flying Lotus’ trippy film/album Cosmogramma (which Thundercat contributed to) in the light of day, due in part to the fact that Thundercat is not much of a low-end artist—”Jamboree,” in which Thundercat’s bass is tuned and affected to groan like the infant child of the Gaslamp Killer’s subwoofer, is as gluggy as he gets. With the exception of “Mystery Machine,” The Golden Age Of Apocalypse is all warm vibes and morning sex instead of Cosmogramma‘s seriously zonked and far-out space grooves—light and airy melodies carried out on bass with the tinkle of synth and keyboard, clear uptempo drumlines and a high soul-influenced singing voice doused in reverb.
Using George Duke’s 1975 funk song “For Love (I Come Your Friend),” Thundercat winds through a mix of instrumental and vocal synth-jazz-R&B-funk tracks. The lyrics, often taken from Duke’s song, are usually simple and a little quixotic; on “Is It Love?” he sings that “Every day is like a dream to me,” and that “Seasons blow away, but the love still hurts the same” on “Seasons,” singing over a rolling and effortlessly surreal bassline in both.
When he’s not employing his un-Sampha-like falsetto, Thundercat allows his fingers to do the talking and the walking. On tracks like “Goldenboy,” The Golden Age Of Apocalypse becomes a spaced-and-chilled-out jam session, like a gang of stoned aliens channeling unfocused energy into the Boiler Room’s equipment at a fresh and sexy Sunday brunch. Although perhaps not as overtly funky as Shenanigans Pt. I, the teaser mixtape Flying Lotus mixed and released on Brainfeeder’s site a few weeks before The Golden Age Of Apocalypse hit shelves, it vibes on the same upbeat alert chillness and shares some of the same sonic themes. A piece of the Cosmogramma track Thundercat contributed to, “Mmmhmm,” crops up as an acoustic outro to “Is It Love?” and channels the same wicked bass playing and proclivities to jazz and funk that make The Golden Age Of Apocalypse a magical work of astral utopia. Word.