Jun 20, 2013

The New Jazz: Kanye, Daft Punk, and Thundercat

Stephen Bruner aka Thundercat
By Adrian Nieves (Concert Writer for TicketLiquidator.com)

Daft Punk's Random Access Memories
In the deluge of hype following two of the biggest releases of the summer, Kanye West’s Yeezus and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, a smaller, quirkier, better produced album quietly slipped into the ether, and will probably remain long after the others have receded into the dustbin of forgotten playlists. While Kanye was reinventing himself as a barbarian at the gates of the record label industrial complex, affecting a punk swagger and quite literally layering in the sound of laser beams to announce that he had done something “new” and “different”, and while Daft Punk had jumped in their robot time machine and were busy filching disco sounds from the 70s, Stephen Bruner, the man known as Thundercat, unveiled his debut album Apocalypse to relatively little fanfare. 

Kanye West's Yeezus
If Yeezus and R.A.M. represent two sides of a spectrum with Yeezus as the vanguard of pomp and bombast and R.A.M. drenched in the nostalgic past, Apocalypse falls somewhere in the middle.  Bruner’s Apocalypse is a liberating affair.  No panic, no fire and brimstone, nor rending of the skies by Bruckheimeran meteorites.  His Apocalypse is a vision of revelation founded on the subtler context of change, in this case the departure of Bruner’s longtime friend and collaborator, 22 year old pianist, Austin Peralta, from his mortal coil.
Released on the Los Angeles-based Brainfeeder label, Apocalypse was produced by another longtime Thundercat collaborator, label founder Steven Ellison, more commonly known as Flying Lotus.  Brainfeeder’s Low End Theory nights in L.A. have become a hotbed for the experimental jazz, funk and electronic fusion featured on their studio productions.  While introspective, Apocalypse doesn’t sacrifice fun for gravity.  This is a party at the end of world.  Thundercat’s bass prowess is reminiscent of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones’ Victor Wooten, and his sugary vocals, along with vintage soul, R&B and disco influences, are funneled through the FlyLo production apparatus to produce a self-assured masterpiece.  Part Stevie Wonder, part Mahavishnu Orchestra, the true revelation here is that life goes on and the future is happening right now in Los Angeles.

Thundercat - Apocalypse: purchase here

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