26-year-old Stephen Bruner’s resumé would be the envy of musicians twice his age. At 15, the virtuoso bassist garnered his first hit as part of boy band No Curfew. Two years later, he began touring with Suicidal Tendencies, a job he still holds today. Now having backed everyone from Snoop Dogg to Erykah Badu, Bruner’s performing under the alias Thundercat, he’s released The Golden Age of Apocalypse, a Sun Ra-meets-Jaco Pastorius-meets-Roy Ayers psychedelic jazz head trip, produced entirely by Flying Lotus.
Yet Apocalypse isn’t the first pairing of the producer with his protégé — the bassist appeared on Lotus’s 2010 album Cosmogramma — but it’s the most potent. This is Voltron; the result of two gifted and warped musicians uniting and avoiding any musical dilution. Otherworldly, abstract sounds blend with virtuosic chord progressions and complex, layered beats that lay the bed for smoothed-out acid jazz; it’s the sound of Pharoah Sanders embracing hip-hop, yet not succumbing to the bloated sounds of so many ‘90s rap-jazz hybrids.
With help from sonic peers SA-RA Creative Partners, J*Davey and his drummer brother Ronald Bruner, Jr., Thundercat reworks and updates an old musical hybrid for a modern era. Hip-hop and jazz’s love affair goes back more than 20 years, but many of those classic records looked to equally classic Blue Note samples as their muse. With Apocalypse, Thundercat and Lotus go deeper, mining spacier, more experimental sonic ground; spaced-out beats over spaced-out chords ushering in new life into a stale genre. [Stream The Golden Age of Apocalypse via Hype Machine]