Posted on June 4th, 2013 (10:00 am) by Jordan Gray

Musicianship. Holy shit, sometimes in today's slew of mass produced sound-alike music with pop songs recycling old instrumentals, melodies, and chord progressions for the masses to gobble up, it's easy to forget that music is actually an art form and not just a way to generate revenue. Using the same three or four chords in a song because it has proven to put you on top of the charts does not make you a good musician or artist. In fact, if you do that and only that, you are no artist at all. You don't have to play it safe - it's music, people. Sure, people who make music have to make a buck. But, if you're putting out music - something that can literally affect people physically and emotionally and has for centuries and millennia - you have a responsibility to do justice to that fact and never be content in operating within a formula that has been proven to get people's ears' attention so that their wallets open. Otherwise, you are doing a disservice to both people's appreciation for music as well as yourself. You aren't pushing any boundaries at all. You aren't building upon the history of the craft. Here at Inyourspeakers we would like to think that we support music that does both of these things. That is why we hold Thundercat and his latest album, Apocalypse, which is being released on Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label on June 8th, in such high regard.

Thundercat, a.k.a. Stephen Bruner, has been born into and raised around jazz greats. His father was a jazz-drummer, his brother is an award winning drummer, he toured with one of the pioneers of jazz-bass innovation, Stanley Clarke, not to mention he also toured the world along side his brother while playing music as the bassist for Suicidal Tendencies when he was still in high school. It is safe to say that from a young age Thundercat was a vet in the jazz and music game. His thorough understanding of music's aesthetics and the ways that they can be wielded, stretched, condensed, and manipulated to push music into new sonic soundscapes and realms is absolutely demonstrated on Apocalypse. It is almost unfair to single out certain tracks to discuss, because each song on the album truly does have its own special qualities to offer listeners as well as the work as a whole.

The album's second track, "Heartbreaks + Setbacks," is one of only two songs that Thundercat had released prior to the album being put out. It's a wonderfully jazz influenced spacey, synthy, math-rocky, funky song that combines all of these genres and throws them into left field - and goodness is it glorious. It's refreshing to hear something pleasing to the ear, catchy, and both musically and rhythmically advanced enough to keep its quality of musicianship. Not to mention the dude's vocals! "Special Stage" features Thundercat's soft, soulful, and melodic voice over the top of a drum loop and some jazz bass and synth arpeggio doodlings, which just perfectly compliment the tone and aesthetic of the song, album, and who Thundercat is as an artist. Then there are tracks like "Oh Sheit It's X," the other track released prior to the album dropping, which is on some real funky '80s groove type of wave. "I just wanna party / You should be here with me / in this ecstasy." It is practically impossible to not groove to this track.

There has certainly been a revival among this generation's music makers and listeners with the disco, funk, and house genres - Thundercat throws his hat in the ring on this song and rejuvenates the genre into a simultaneously authentic representation of classic stylings but futuristic progression. Other amazing songs on this album are "Seven," "Lotus and the Jondy," and "Evangelion," but actually, as mentioned before, this whole album is spectacular. Also, can we talk about the fact that Thundercat is creating a majority of this jazz instrumentation with a bass guitar? What a perfect instrument to mix jazz with electronic genres and FlyLo production. It's subtle, but at the same time is also the driving force behind much electronic music. So, it is also one of the most powerful ways to affect the quality and tone of the music as well as how listeners feel and react to the music.

Perhaps the most incredible aspect of the album, at least in the opinion of this writer, is the album's last song, which really speaks to Thundercat's authenticity as an artist. It is called "A Message For Austin / Praise The Lord / Enter the Void." The way that the song is named one would think that there are three parts to it. However, upon a listen there are only two distinct sections of the song. As the second section of the song gently fades out over its entire course, the listener slowly realizes Thundercat has brought you to the edge and that as the track gradually stops playing, the album ends, and you are left in silence, you enter the void. It is poetic, beautiful, artistic, and perfectly embodies the quality, innovation, and purity of Thundercat's artistry and musicianship.

Track List:
1. Tenfold
2. Heartbreaks + Setbacks
3. The Life Aquatic
4. Special Stage
5. Tron Song
6. Seven
7. Oh Sheit Its X
8. Without You
9. Lotus and Jondy
10. Evangellion
11. We’ll Die
12. A Message for Austin / Praise the Lord / Enter the Void

Thundercat - Apocalypse
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

94 / 100
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