Thundercat - Apocalypse | Album Review | By Volume

I knew we'd never write. somehow that seemed alright. This counts as calling three years out. The Wrens - 13 Months in 6 Minutes



Fretcrobatics — that’s right, fucking fretcrobatics.

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Author: on July 19, 2013
June 24, 2013

Apocalypse brims only the purest emotion, stripped down to its most basic level. Yeah, Stephen Bruener is a categorical master bass virtuoso; his second LP is no doubt rife with feats of impossible fretcrobatics. Perhaps it’s the way Flying Lotus mans the boards, but while Thundercat’s technical acuity is obvious, it’s clearly not the point this time around. “Special Stage” almost beats our collective heads in with a lyrical interpretation amidst a multifaceted composition, pulling from European classical techniques as easily as jazz and soul. Ultimately, the message is complex and beautiful, yet succinct and passionately life-affirming: “Life is just a game / It’s all in your hands”.

But pre-release single “Oh Sheit It’s X” is the best example of this compositional approach; the track is a funk anthem masterclass – driving, danceable, and catchy. Yet searing through the track’s very fiber is Bruener’s best impression of multivariable bass science, nearly too complicated for two excellent players to emulate, but never stealing the spotlight for more than a few seconds at a time, acting primarily as a simple rhythmic device. This type of paradoxical restraint has been historically rare in musicians even twice his age and increasingly so since the golden age of jazz visionaries ended. His vocal contributions are as important as his bass wizardry, Flying Lotus’ elite production, and even the genre-bending drum solo of The Mars Volta’s Thomas Pridgen on “Lotus and the Jondy”. Quite surprisingly (as a solo record), Apocalypse is not the Thundercat show, and is indeed a true sum of it’s parts – this review alone could have been written in dedication to nearly any of the main compositions herein.

What it actually is, though, besides some impersonal, generalized jargon, is a stirring emotional statement dedicated to life, debasing any possible suggested air of complexity. Life has many “Heartbreaks + Setbacks”, is a very “Special Stage”, is difficult “Without You”, is simple when you think with your heart and mind as one (“Evangelion”), and eventually, “We’ll Die”. It’s simple, and Bruener truly gets it within the confines of forty minutes. Yet the most heartfelt vibes explored here are the permutations of the afterlife on Bruener’s dedication to late friend and fellow musician/label-mate/member of the human race, Austin Peralta, who perished on November 21, 2012. Death surely ends our lives, but friendships, moments, the way the leaves glimmer in the sunlight from the faintest touch of wind – memories are the real leftover pieces of our lives: “Thank you for being a friend / That you were to me / I cherish the moments of all our good time / You traveled beyond / Your legacy lives on”.

When I think of Thundercat, I always return to his 2013 Minneapolis performance opening for Flying Lotus, decked out in musketeer boots, with a stage setup and lighting more akin to a 70s funk variety show than an MDMA-laced electronic music gathering. He walked on stage, filled the entire room with love, and completely shattered any possible preconceptions of his craft. Likely more insightful than anything said within this solitary destination of tubes and wires, Flying Lotus himself waxed via Twitter on the making of Apocalypse:

…ill always cherish the making of this thing.. we had so many potential songs but i thought we should trim the fat,only the right songs! all the songs are about loss in some kind of way.. in the end it wasn’t about the money i don’t make much off this shit really.. it was about the work. it was about all the tears.. all the frustrations i was mad that thundercat wasn’t living it up like frank ocean and miguel. i think he deserves the universe. a man with limitless ideas and talent. its kinda scary to witness. i am gonna brush my teeth now.. thanks everyone. have a beautiful apocalypse and spread the word. please please.

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