sat 31/10/2020

Album: Thundercat - It Is What It Is | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Thundercat - It Is What It Is

Album: Thundercat - It Is What It Is

Shadowy Californian dreams from bassist firing at full-blast

Alongside the man he calls “the other half of my brain”, Flying Lotus, Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner sits near the heart of Los Angeles’ fertile, genre-busting scene, helping to link Kendrick Lamar’s righteous rebel rap, Kamasi Washington’s spiritual jazz, and the faux-nerd white one-man bands of Louis Cole and Sam Gendel.

Alongside the man he calls “the other half of my brain”, Flying Lotus, Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner sits near the heart of Los Angeles’ fertile, genre-busting scene, helping to link Kendrick Lamar’s righteous rebel rap, Kamasi Washington’s spiritual jazz, and the faux-nerd white one-man bands of Louis Cole and Sam Gendel. Breaking through himself with Drunk (2017), It Is What It Is confirms Thundercat’s own complex character, being both slyly funny and obscurely moving, as if attending a party that’s almost over.

“Black Qualls” features another in the current generation of prodigious, interlinked black polymaths, Childish Gambino, and leaves a slowly blooming depth-charge of disquiet amidst the bubbling bass and crooned harmonies. “No more living in fear...if we don’t talk about it,” Thundercat sighs, as the potentials and danger of being a young black American jostle, tipped into optimism by the participants’ brilliance.

Tracks rarely last more than three minutes, slivers of contrasting inspiration, from the bouncing yacht-rock of “I Love Louis Cole” to Thundercat’s exultant, hyper-speed slap-bass showcase, “How Sway”. Jazz’s rubbery tempo-shifts twitch easily beneath the laptop-based creativity’s R&B veneer, in the free-for-all characterising this decade, and embodied by the bassist as much as anyone.

If “King of the Hill” imagines crosstown traffic which might struggle to safely make it home, “Overseas” finds Thundercat gratefully settling into the mile-high club. “There seems to be a shiny black man up in first-class,” notes a guesting Zack Fox. “How I Feel” answers its own question with blissed-out harmonies and vibraphone chimes. Brazilian jazz guitarist Pedro Martins then gives lilting life to the relatively prog-length, five-minute title track, which adds orchestral colours and bustling drum-rolls as Thundercat’s psyche settles back to stoned uncertainty. Buoyed by a talent currently firing at full-blast, the Californian sunshine he’s offering to the world is sharpened by its shadows.

The potentials and danger of being a young black American are tipped into optimism by the participants’ brilliance

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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