Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thundercat's "Apocalypse" While Juggling Dinner

When I am scheduled to have time alone with the Little One, people cautiously ask me “are you OK?”  I find the question a little curious, because there seems to be an assumption that I might be nervous to be alone with her. Although the Little One has injected no small amount of chaos into the everyday, I find that it is quite possible to include her into the things that I would normally do. Weaving our needs together is certainly more complicated than just doing my own thing, but it is also cathartic.

Earlier this week, I brought her home while my wife was working late. On evenings like this, after we feed and play, the Little One and I usually sit down and listen to music. The easy thing to do, of course, would be to make a quick dinner so that I could tend to her, but I am trying to continue eating on the Paleo diet I was introduced to in CrossFit, which inevitably requires some sort of preparation. This particular evening, we accommodated by changing the regimen a little, and we did our listening from the kitchen. While I chopped up yams and zucchini, we listened to Thundercat’s recent electrofunk release The Golden Age of Apocalypse.

Thundercat is part of a collective of musicians that orbit around laptop artist and producer Flying Lotus. As a sometime bassist myself, I admit finding a new bass guru is an appealing prospect, and Thundercat does not disappoint. He owes no small debt to bass pioneers Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke, but at the same time manages avoid taking himself too seriously. With more and more bands resorting to synthesized and sequenced bass parts, it is inspiring to see someone pushing the instrument to the front in a way that is both classic and relevant.

The Golden Age of Apocalypse is a great example of what I call a “waketime” album for the Little One. It’s far too energetic to be soothing, but it is fun and harmonically deep. Although his nom de plume is an 80s reference, Thundercat harkens back to the 70s when the shimmer of the Fender-Rhodes unified Earth, Wind, and Fire’s anthemic bombast with the jazz fusion chops of Return to Forever. The Golden Age of Apocalypse avoids delving into a full-on 70s rehash, however, by acknowledging the atmospheric innovations of acid jazz and turntablism. Thundercat and his backing group are probably capable of recreating DJ Shadow’s 2001 classic Endtroducing…... even hypothetically, that’s no mean feat.

Hang in there until the bass solo at 3:00.  Trust me on this one....

I would love for the Little One to grow up knowing albums like this one as a household staple. I suspect that by the time she gets into her own music-making, it will probably be far trendier to work in the vein of Flying Lotus’ laptop work than Thundercat’s more classic approach to the bass. I would, however, like for her to know the feeling of having an instrument vibrate in her hands so that she can viscerally appreciate good playing when she sees or hears it in some setting. Although it’s not necessary to have this sort of background to get into The Golden Age of Apocalypse, it does deliver on this level and beyond.

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