NINJASHOP | BOOMKAT | BLEEP
If indeed “you blows who you is,” as Louis Armstrong once famously said, then Stephen Bruner’s bass is a mainline to the soul of a man whose DNA was transcribed from the stars onto staff paper. His Flying Lotus-produced debut, The Golden Age of Apocalypse, offers both stone-cold skill and uncanny astrality, picking up where the pair left off on 2010′s Cosmogramma and further distilling the jazz current running through that landmark Lotus release. A longtime contributor to others’ albums, Bruner, aka Thundercat, is accompanied by an impressive cast ranging from Erykah Badu to members of Sa-Ra and J*DaVeY, to pianist Austin Peralta and his own Grammy-winning brother, drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr. Still, the end result is unmistakably a Thundercat record — a lush and magical document combining classic jazz fusion, futurist electronic strains and timeless musical seeking.
A native of South Los Angeles, Bruner found his instrument at the age of 4. That made him a late-bloomer in the house of Ronald, Sr., who drummed with the Temptations among others. His first bass was a black Harmony, and he practiced to the Ninja Turtles soundtrack until pops played him Jaco Pastorius. School was a blur of lessons, sessions and waking up for zero periods. At 15, he scored a hit in Germany as part of the short-lived boy band No Curfew. At 16, he toured Japan with soul man Leon Ware and joined thrash legends Suicidal Tendencies (he’s still their bassist). More road and studio time followed, with everyone from Stanley Clarke to Snoop Dogg to Eric Benet. Eventually the name Thundercat stuck, a reference to the cartoon he’s loved since childhood and an extension of Bruner’s wide-eyed, vibrant, often superhuman approach to his craft. As one writer put it, he’s “a mutant jazz cat,” nuff said.
Spanning a cosmic stew of players, locations and times, The Golden Age of Apocalypse was years in the making even though Bruner had never planned on releasing his own music. But Lotus spurred him on, and each song became a journey. There’s the ebullient “Daylight,” a soft whirl of bluesy piano, New Age synth, snapping beats and warm bass. There’s “Walkin’,” an upbeat soul strutter powered by Bruner’s digitally distorted plucks. There are raw, improvised numbers like “Jamboree” and virtuosic bass pileups like “Fleer Ultra.” One of the album’s most stunning moments arrives with a spacious cover of George Duke’s “For Love I Come,” a taut beauty spangled with crystalline harp and keys. Bringing this string of divinely unexpected moments to a moody and cinematic close is “Return to the Journey.” There, Bruner sings, “Time will pass us by,” but listeners needn’t worry. Inside of this space, time really isn’t a thing.
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Lots of people ask me about Thundercat, and how I come to know this guy. Thing is you’ve been hearing him for years and probably didn’t even know it. He’s one of the most talented bass players I’ve ever witnessed and I’ve been blessed to have worked with this guy on ‘Cosmogramma’ and ‘Pattern+Grid World’. Since then Thunder has been like a brother to me and feels like the other half of my brain in the studio. I thought it would be good to get you familiar with the man who’s contributed his unique sound to so many records I love. Here’s some things, a prelude to the LP. Some new, some you might know, some we may never release.
His debut album ‘The Golden Age of Apocalypse’ drops Aug. 30th, which I have had my hand in putting together.
“People just like a certain sound and then they want more of that. But then when you give them more, they suddenly think you’re boring or one-dimensional. The best way to handle it is to not really listen to people, and just dictate what you want to do. Everyone has their angle, and puts on their mask forward. People use a shell to show who they want to be.” – Martyn
Martyn has a startling ability to keep the media world standing on its toes. Just when he was pegged a bass artist, he knocked heads flat with a flutter of four-on-the-floor releases for the likes of Aus Music, Ostgut Ton and All City. Likewise, every chance to see Martyn DJ brings a new dimension of surprise: all rules and preconceptions are left equally as shattered.
The decidedly independent artist has always done things his way and his way only, even choosing to release his debut album – Great Lengths – on his own label (3024) in 2009. But instead of staying in the expected zip code for his next body of work, he opted to tread a different avenue: he took Flying Lotus up on the offer to join his family. Martyn’s sophomore album, Ghost People, will be released on Brainfeeder this fall.
Masks / Viper is the first single from Ghost People, a taste into what’s to come with Martyn’s new – and, naturally, unexpected – sonic direction. The A-side, “Masks”, builds a spacey, sci-fi terrain, with a sharp 4/4 groove and metallic, hypnotic chromatics. Melodies sit on top of each other, winding upwards to become the ultimate soundtrack for walking through the hallway between Berghain and Panoramabar, exploring from one room to the other.
Dark and fringed with a rough edge, “Viper”, as Martyn puts it, is “a beatless exercise in the sound that made Metalheadz.” “Viper (London Arches Edit)” brings the feel of a gloomy dark tunnel: imagine cycling past the doors of Cable in London Bridge on a shadowy Monday night.