Review of Thundercat’s new album “The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam”

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I wrote a review of Thundercat’s new mini album “The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam” for Ruby Hornet.

Check it out here or click below to view the plain text version.

“[Review] Thundercat: “The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam””
By Danielle Levsky
Posted on June 29, 2015

I went in with high expectations to Thundercat’s new mini-album, The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam. Stephen Bruner, the man behind the Thundercat pseudonym, is celebrated and respected for his work with Kendrick Lamar on To Pimp a Butterfly and Flying Lotus on You’re Dead! But, on this album, he seems to be holding back that virtuosic bass.

In an interview with Billboard, Thundercat said that this project was recorded at the same time as his two collaborative albums “kind of like a by-product of everything that was happening”. The themes are indeed similar, but perhaps too much of an emphasis was made on making an overall theme and not enough on the cohesiveness of the album itself. Slow, ethereal tracks shift to funk and back to breezy. Regardless, Thundercat experiments with the abstract and delivers a thought provoking track list.

For this album, the bassist and singer-songwriter Thundercat returned to his Los Angeles based record label Brainfeeder, introducing six tracks that incorporate R&B, jazz fusion, electronic, psychedelic, and funk. Though he usually produces grand-gestured tracks, Thundercat took a step back with a low-energy, reflective sound. Life, love, and loss are the central themes of the album, starting right off with “Hard Times” foray into death: “Where’s this cold, dark place?/This must be the end/Time to shed some skin.” The melancholy tone of the lyrics doesn’t add or detract from the airy melody, though in the last line of the song, “God give me sight beyond sight,” he makes a nod towards TV series Thundercats. “Song for the Dead” goes along in the same vein as a mellow melodies though introduces sub-bass percussion into the chorus. The lyrics are simple and slightly cliched, examining the state of death (“Close your eyes/Past your head/You are dead”).

“Them Changes” seems to overshadow the rest of the tracks on the album with Thundercat’s bass and funk present in this groovy track. While the lyrics are underwhelming in their story of heartbreak (“Nobody move, there’s blood on the floor/and I can’t find my heart/where did it go, did I leave it in the cold?/so please give it back, ‘cuz it’s not yours to take,”) the rhythm and fretwork is infectious. Thundercat is able to let his melodic composition speak for what his words cannot convey.

“Lone Wolf and Cub” slips back into the slower, somber beginnings of the album. Jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock is featured on this lounge-friendly track. “That Moment” is an instrumental interlude that seems to fade out of “Lone Wolf and Cub” and into the closer “Where the Giants Roam / Field of the Nephilim,” an echo of opening track “Hard Times.”

The album yearns for more energy and spunk from Thundercat of yesteralbum. “Them Changes” rolls with the abstract while maintaining its funky vibes; the rest of the tracks are light as a dream: there for a moment and then gone from your memory.

Score: 7 out of 10

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