In Los Angeles, you can fit three weeks into a New York minute.
This isn’t based on any sort of factual data. In reality, I just made that up while sitting in a borrowed Los Angeles apartment on a cool summer night. Vacationing on the Left Coast has taught me several things, most of which I already knew. More than anything, I realized that California rocks to the rhythm of its own G-Funk era drum. That is why I have always appreciated it’s art.
Naturally, I’ve been as cliché as possible in my musical endeavors while resting under the California sunshine. Engaging in the sounds of artists too often ignored in my own Midwestern enclave (Blu, Terrace Martin, Dom Kennedy, L.A.U.S.D., etc.), there is nothing that I’ve enjoyed more than simply driving down Fairfax releasing obnoxiously high levels of Nate Dogg into the already congested atmosphere. As trite as it may sound, this is the effect of a few days out West. The soul of California has its own signature flair. The vibe is often, like its people, laid-back with an eccentric touch. It’s outgoing and adventurous, with just enough cool to justify its inclusion in the summertime staple of drop top convertible rides through the neighborhood. In the words of Californian urban poet Natassia “Kreayshawn” Zolot, “I’m in the coupe cruisin’…”
Joking aside, whether it’s trunk-rattling bass from Oakland’s newest rapper or the the mellow sensations of beachfront jazz, California has an undeniable charm. This appeal comes from a long lineage of gifted artists ranging from Roy Ayers to the Pharcyde. Few, however capture this essence quite like musician Thundercat. Known for his bass work with Erykah Badu, Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner recently released a stream of his entire solo album (via Brainfeeder) compelling me send up praises to the Bay Area’s resident deity Lil’ B, The Based God.
The album is indiscernible in characterization. There are elements of jazz, funk, pop, and soul intertwined amongst the underrated bass work and surprisingly sharp vocal performance Thundercat. If there was any sort of label worth giving to this collage of sounds, I would perhaps go with “futuristic.” It’s an abstract term and expresses the limited availability of language in describing art. The sonic peculiarity of this album couldn’t possibly be encapsulated by one word, or even ten. It’s a complicated fusion of this, that, and everything in-between. Despite, its otherworldliness, I find the album to be quite accessible. It has a melodious strand that runs throughout, beginning to end. With perfect synthesis, this beauty is build atop dark undertones, both vocally and instrumentally. A palpable treat, the album still manages to leave any listener with a haunting aftertaste. This contradiction of sound manages to enhance an already decisively evolved project.
I say all of this to introduce you to the soundtrack to my West Coast excursion. With a million and one musical points of entry, I chose Thundercat. His sound brings together the best of the West with something that few people are capable of doing. It’s fun, free-spirited, and above all incredibly diverse, just like the region in which he resides. But, it needn’t be relegated to just that. My lasting impressions of The Golden Age of Apocalypse fall into a place of both admiration and appreciation. There’s a flexibility, not only sonically, but conceptually that allows for this to be a record that stays in heavy rotation, wherever you may be. It has the warmth of a West Coast summer day, with the right injection of demurity to fill an artificially-lit apartment during an autumn in New York.Thundercat transcends both musical archetypes and regional trends. If you don’t know, now you know.
Thundercat’s The Golden Age of Apocalypse drops August 30.
Written by: Paul Pennington