Brainfeeder is a consistently intriguing record label. It’s home to many unique musicians; The Gaslamp Killer, Martyn, Mr Oizo and, of course, the musical enigma that is Flying Lotus. On FlyLo’s last LP Cosmogramma (which is, without a doubt, a must own album), one of the standout songs was ‘MmmHmm‘ featuring the bassist/vocalist Thundercat, one of the label’s newest projects. It was only a matter of time before Thundercat emerged out of the shadows and released his own album and a year later, we have The Golden Age of the Apocalypse.
The album kind of crept up on me; I’d notice Lotus and other Brainfeeder affiliates shilling the album constantly and the positive reviews on famous music sites, but I never really took it in and processed it. Last night, when I got bored of listening to the same old stuff, I decided to check it out and give The Golden Age of the Apocalypse (I’m gonna start abbreviating that from this point forth) a listen.
I’ve preface this by saying I was not pleasantly surprised. This is because I went in with high expectations anyway; it wasn’t going to be a bad album because Thundercat makes fine bass heavy (in the sense that he uses a lot of funky bass riffs and licks) music that teeters on jazz. It’s produced by Lotus, which is evident straight the way with it’s scattered beats and experimental jazz edge, once again, not necessarily a bad thing, although it kind of detracts away from Thundercat as it sounds like you could be listening to a new FlyLo album. Then again, how do we know what Thundercat would sound like without Lotus producing it, maybe it’d still be as glitchy and as jazzy, maybe this is what Thundercat’s music sounds like.
Anyway, enough of that thrilling and paradoxical debate and on with the review. The sound of this album gives me the impression that Thundercat’s greatly influenced by Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters period (a side note: Head Hunters is one of my top 5 favourite albums of all time) as certain instrument pieces like the drums, bass and especially the keys sound like they’ve been ‘borrowed’ from Head Hunter sessions. TGAOTA shares Head Hunters’ hypnotic sound to a tee, whilst adapting it to the modern age with bleeps and loops. This is some genuine ear candy, with sounds coming from left field and taking you on a musical journey of sorts if you allow it to like the best funk music (a la, Parliament and Dâm-Funk) should.
A stand out track for me was hard to choose, it all seems to become a LSD infused jazz trip, with songs melting into one and other and throwing up glorious sounds that never antagonise or shock the listener. It washes over you and it’s only with repeat listens do you hear all the little sounds and lush instrumentation that are occurring. If I had to pick one or two stand outs then it’d probably be ‘Is It Love?’ and ‘Boat Cruise’. ‘Is It Love?’ is engulfed in soulful vocals, hypnotic drums (provided by Thundercat’s brother Ronald Bruner, Jr) and some truly brilliant basslines, it also ends with the a stripped back rendition of the hook from ‘MmmHmm’ which is never a bad thing. ‘Boat Cruise’ epitomises everything this album stands for with it’s array of sounds and psychedelic jazz feel and looped vocals, it’s an astounding listen that could so easily be the soundtrack to an acid trip.
As I previously said, I didn’t go into this album with low expectations, nor did I expect the album to be an album of the year contender in my eyes. After several listens, I continue to be amazed and blown away by the sound Thundercat produces; it’s like nothing being produced by anyone in either the mainstream or niche genres of any kind. The Golden Age of the Apocalypse is a great album that deserves more attention than it will probably get, but that’s the way of the world. Oh yeah and starts with a sample of the theme song to Thundercats which is still pretty epic in that 80s cartoon way.
A Stream of the album can be found here on the Brainfeeder site. The album is out now.