You might have heard Thundercat crooning on Flying Lotus’ ‘MmmHmm’ off the latter’s seminal Cosmogramma. Despite being the superior track, Thom Yorke’s vocals were still the sole voice casual fans would remember being featured on the album. Ain’t hating on homie, but fark dart.
Thundercat is the feather-adorned spiritual successor to George Clinton & the Funkadelics by way of LA’s homebrewed electronic scene (aka the beat scene). A hell of a bassist, he has played for everyone from Erykah Badu to his own trash metal band Suicidal Tendencies. The Golden Age of Apocalypse sees him collaborating with Fly Lo again, creating something unsurprisingly jazzy – had the genre been conceived in the age of electronic music.
Admittedly this isn’t very novel, beatmakers, especially in hip hop, have always been fixated by the genre. Producers like Madlib and Pete Rock have all crafted ‘jazz’ music, but they rarely go beyond the realm of homage. What Thundercat and creative compatriot Fly Lo have done here is actually contribute to the jazz canon with original music that is a natural progression of the genre as opposed to just samples-based tributes. Yet at the same time they are not attempting to consciously deconstruct the genre either.
George Duke’s ‘For Love I Come’, covered to perfection by Thundercat here, is the perfect tone-setting track for the rest of the album. You can almost imagine John Coltrane hanging his hat on the mic stand before jamming along to the track’s dreamy chord progressions. Unfortunately Thundercat’s ethereal vocals, best exemplified on this track, don’t get featured a lot as the album is primarily an instrumental record.
This is barely a fault though, like actual jazz records, the music works best free of form and vocals. The seamless transition of ‘Jamboree’ to ‘Boat Cruise’ wouldn’t have been as smooth had there been extra layers of vocals.
The Golden Age of Apocalypse, despite being a product that owes a lot to electronic and hip hop, sounds like it has stronger roots in Weather Report and Bela Fleck than Kraftwerk and J Dilla. We are not usually prone to exaggeration but if this doesn’t equate to its guaranteed presence in the jazz canon, we don’t know what does.
LISTEN TO: ‘For Love I Come’, ‘Jamboree’, ‘Mystery Machine (The Golden Age of Apocalypse)’
IF YOU LIKE THIS YOU’LL DIG: Flying Lotus and the whole Brainfeeder roster
Astro-travel with Thundercat here.
2. FLEER ULTRA
3. IS IT LOVE?
4. FOR LOVE I COME
5. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER TO YOU
7. BOAT CRUISE
11. MYSTERY MACHINE (THE GOLDEN AGE OF APOCALYPSE)
12. RETURN TO THE JOURNEY