Record of the Month
To say I’ve not been looking forward to this one would be a straight-out lie. Kind of like vehemently assuring one’s kid brother that Father Christmas is real or that the tooth fairy isn’t just mum in a tutu. Although Stephen ‘Thundercat’ Bruner has been on the musical/astral map way prior to ‘Cosmogramma’ – thrash band Suicidal Tendencies for one – it was FlyLo’s last that put him on my radar. His contribution on that aided FlyLo in as much as further scratching away those delible lines between jazz and hip-hop. As such, it’s not exactly surprising that ‘The Golden Age of Apocalypse’ verges on being exactly that (for all you genre cats); a jazz album. I’ll limit my name-checking, although it’s hard not to sense such boundary-hopping as comparable to Herbie Hancock bridging the ostensible gap on ‘Future Shock’ – albeit from a hip-hop to jazz tip rather than its converse. Whether this LP actually starts from a hip-hop base remains a moot point. Still, the very essence of conventions being played with makes things immeasurably exciting, and that acid test is passed here again and again.
It starts with the Thundercats cry of ‘HooooooO’ which immediately triggers those long-forgotten, adolescent feelings for Cheetara. That cry itself is a call to action and ‘Daylight’ moves with fervent synth patterns and space-age zeal. Without doubt, someone set phasers to fun. ‘Fleer Ultra’ is an arpeggio-laden piece of sheer improvised madness that plays like an up-tempo, futuristic Weather Report. So far, so instrumental. ‘Is It Love?’ changes all that and comes over as a wistful ballad – soulful, touching, and it even has all the time in the world to give a passing nod to ‘Mmm Hmm’ at its close.
‘For Love I Come’ is a fantastically well-realised cover of George Duke’s ‘For Love (I Come Your Friend)’ – the intro for which is even used on the album’s opener – and exposes FlyLo’s otherworldly production work. OK, so ‘It Really Doesn’t Matter to You’ unnecessarily fills time (with a jam, as it happens) before ‘Jamboree’ goes all crazily Mr Oizo-esque with flits of hyperactivity. But, in many ways, the tracks that follow reflect that ‘Golden Age’ of the title; the phased drumming of ‘Boat Cruise’ moves effortlessly and, likewise, ‘Seasons’ is another carefully crafted, beautiful abstraction.
Elsewhere, the funky strut of ‘Walkin” remains a firm favourite and combines soulful crooning vocals with a filmic score rising warmly in the background. Ebullient ‘la-la-la-la’ harmony? Check. And, if ever the eponymous ‘Apocalypse’ does threaten to appear, it’s on the ominous ‘Mystery Machine (The Golden Age of Apocalypse)’ with its portentous Allan Poe clock rings. One trippy encounter via psychedelic closer, ‘Return to the Journey,’ and we reach the end of ours.
Given my earlier genre ruminations, it’s easy to lose track of what’s really important. Does it sound good? No. It sounds great. In short, it’s soulful, impassioned and experimental while seldom erring on the side of ostentation. A debut to savour then, although it seems I’m not the only one fibbing. The Four Horsemen won’t be visiting this Golden Age anytime soon.
Words: Ben Nicholas
‘The Golden Age of Apocalypse’ is out August 29th on Brainfeeder. Click here to download a mix of old, new and rare Thundercat material from Brainfeeder boss Flying Lotus.