Rocket-thumbed bassist Thundercat, aka Los Angeles-based artist Stephen Bruner, impressed many with his 2011 debut album, ‘The Golden Age Of Apocalypse’.
But while said set acted as a fine showcase for the man’s tremendous talents, it lacked a certain immediacy, more chin-stroker than floor-filler of design. Sure, collaborations with the likes of Flying Lotus and Earl Sweatshirt have furthered the Thundercat cause; but in a solo capacity, something’s been lacking.
No longer. Second album ‘Apocalypse’ connects at first contact. Its melodies sink in deep, its fret-dancing motifs engaging and its vocals slipping between passages of deep-grooved future-funk with beautiful poise and purpose.
Highlights arrive frequently. ‘Heartbreaks + Setbacks’ is sleek yet propulsive, effortlessly smooth yet (s)nagging of vocal hooks. ‘Evangelion’ is an underwater workout finding a middle ground between contemporary jazz and skewed hip-hop.
‘Oh Sheit It’s X’ is that previously absent disco delight: the kind of instant-click creation that stomps with all the liquid basslines and silken lyricism of a fantasy collaboration between Justin Timberlake and Daft Punk. It’s a real track-of-2013 contender, in its class.
Rounding things off, a tender aside: ‘A Message To Austin’ is a tribute to the late Brainfeeder-signed jazz pianist Austin Peralta, who died in November 2012 aged just 22. It’s a beautiful moment, devastating in a way, yet absolutely soaring too: rightly celebratory rather than mournful.
While he’ll probably never eclipse the flaming star that is label boss FlyLo’s reputation, Bruner here shows that he’s both his collaborator and peer, fusing a multi-genre musical mentality with a brilliantly sharp edge of accessibility.
Words: Mike Diver
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