It’s impossible to discuss Thundercat without referencing Flying Lotus. And it’s impossible to listen to debut, The Golden Age of Apocalypse, without hearing Lotus–he produced the album. FlyLo is an eclectic visionary, reinterpreting dub, jazz, fusion and hip-hop with a technicians touch. Cosmogramma and Los Angeles are two of the most important electronic albums of the decade. But enough about FlyLo, this is Thundercat’s coming out party. While his mentor’s influence is all over Apocalypse, Thundercat’s personality shines through. He’s more Steely Dan than Sun Ra. More Dilla than Davis. He’s smoother, funkier and more accessible. If you’ve given Flying Lotus a try and just didn’t get it, this may be more up your alley.
The album is the type of dreamy that could soundtrack a hallucinatory summertime excursion or an after midnight dance party. You can taste the late night undertones, but it’s too light to provoke much mystery. It’s jazzy and smoky enough to serve as easy listening, but a good pair of headphones and repeat listens reveal layers and artsy touches that heighten the record. While technically proficient and indebted to electronic music, this is without a doubt a modern soul album. Where Cosmogramma spun off into wild beat-heavy renditions of acid and fusion jazz, Apocalypse takes the backbone of soul, r&b and even a little Light as a Feather Chick Corea, and slices and dices it into a wonderfully contemporary sound.
Ultimately, this record will be compared to the work of Flying Lotus, and judged accordingly. And while the fairness of this could be argued, that’s just the way things go when you’re the protegee of such a talented musician/composer. The Golden Age of Apocalypse isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it’s a challenging and worthwhile album, that leaves the future looking bright for Thundercat, while opening up yet another avenue into the post-Dilla world of hip-hop electronic music.