The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam
Thundercat – aka Stephen Bruner – has contributed to a handful of the very best albums in recent years, collaborating with Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington (which means he’s already played on the best album of 2015) and if his leathery-liquid bass lines have been a highlight across dextrous funk and hip-hop workouts then this mini-album released under his own name shows another side to his playing, given the focus here is a sweet-soul croon that hides inside small pockets of part-tunes. Perhaps The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam is best thought of as a suite, the mini version of Washington’s maxi Epic.
It works, too, as statement not only for the label (you go to Brainfeeder for interesting – and great/astonishing – music, you go there for who is playing and how they’re playing) but as one of the very best examples of how in this Album is Dead scene it’s best not to dance on the grave but to pick up the pieces and reimagine the record, show how it can be reshaped. For there’s more in this 16-minute “EP” than on most albums and in maybe many careers. There’s no reason to listen to this just once as it plays through, then shelve it and return later; it can be on repeat for a day – filling the room with its cool, calm keys and its startling-but-soft, lithe grooves and twisty-turny feels.
It’s a future funk that Thundercat is building here, made of equal parts that touch on his Brainfeeder colleagues’ work (Washington pops up here, as does Herbie Hancock) and the 80s jazz/soul/pop of session stars such as Billy Cobham – but where this starts to swirl towards the incongruous, is that you can imagine this means as much or more to kids raised on James Blake and/or Bon Iver as it would to us oldies that pull out a Headhunters or Blackbyrds record to, er, liven up a night in at home.
That Thundercat would so obviously be happy in either world, and might stand one foot in each camp, is clear as Beyond/Giants spirals towards the celestial, so sure you’re going to hit play again. And again. And again…