Album Review: Thundercat – The Golden Age of Apocalypse

[Brainfeeder; 2011]

Los Angeles record label Brainfeeder has a new addition to the family: Thundercat. The phenomenal bassist, Stephen Bruner, is capable of both creating a tight rhythm section and shredding until his strings are worn. Although The Golden Age of Apocalypse is Bruner’s debut album, he’s been involved with the music business for quite some time. He was the bassist for Suicidal Tendencies after Robert Trujillo went on to play with Metallica. He’s worked with Snoop Dog and Erykah Badu. He’s seen as the protégé of Steve Ellison, better known as Flying Lotus. Ellison produced The Golden Age of Apocalypse, but it isn’t the first time the two musicians have worked together. Bruner contributed basslines and vocals to Cosmogramma and Pattern+Grid World.

The Golden Age of Apocalypse kicks off with a nostalgic sample from the animated series ThunderCats before jumping into “Daylight.” A warped, almost wobbly synth line takes off as a sharp electronic beat taps in the background. Bruner’s basslines slide along with the synth, blending in before he repeatedly sings “Open your eyes/Daylight.” Keys are brought in to accompany the rest of the music courtesy of Austin Peralta, a fellow Brainfeeder label mate.

“Fleer Ultra” comes complete with thumping bass, shakers and funky synth. It’s the first danceable track of the album, but certainly not the last. Thumping bass and a steady beat create a funky shuffle of a rhythm on “It Really Doesn’t Matter To You.” The instrumental track feels like a great improvisational jam session between musicians that truly love what they do. “Jamboree” is another track that’s perfect for the dance floor. Cymbal taps come out like bullets from a machine gun over some electronically enhanced fuzz. “Walkin’” is another hip-shaking track that disco junkies could strut down the street to as this blares from their headphones.

But this isn’t just a boogie-until-you-drop sort of album. It has its softer moments as well. “Is It Love?” has a combination of phased-out bass, subtle tambourine, mild drumming and echoed vocals that create a dreamlike haze. The jazzy keyboard solo that starts around the two-minute mark blends into a horn solo, which then blends to a shredding bass solo from Bruner. A chord progression on an acoustic guitar and some swirling, atmospheric synth on “Seasons” turn into a steady track about love and heartache. Bruner croons “Seasons blow away, but the love is just the same/Each time you go away, but the love won’t let me stay/Each time you go away, but the love won’t hurt today/Seasons blow away, but the love still hurts the same” over the occasional spastic bassline and light keys.

I haven’t been this impressed with a bassist since my dad first showed me Les Claypool. The Golden Age of Apocalypse is a great album that shows Bruner utilizing all of his bass wizardry. Although the bassist has been in the music business for a while, Brainfeeder is where he’s made his home.