Thundercat, Ghosthouse | Schubas | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Thundercat, Ghosthouse 

When: Thu., Nov. 21, 9 p.m. 2013
Price: $18, $15 in advance
Electric bassists with prodigious skills tend to make pretty boring music—few sounds fill me with dread like a slap-bass solo. Thundercat (aka Stephen Bruner) definitely has the chops to visit those dark places, but his confident range has helped him land gigs with Erykah Badu, Suicidal Tendencies, and an all-star Miles Davis tribute, among others. Under his own name he seems to be attempting a mixture of George Clinton-esque funk, Stevie Wonder-style cosmic soul, and electronic grooves—his first album, The Golden Age of Apocalypse, walked a thin line between wankery and good taste. He’s found a much better balance on the recent Apocalypse (both releases are on Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label), one of frothiest and most ambitious R&B records I’ve heard this year. His forceful bass dominates the music, giving it a warm, punchy center; fat sixteenth notes punctuate dense beats created on drum kits and computers, while washes of synthesizers, harmony vocals, and Fender Rhodes chords put some flesh on this lean armature. The only other focal point, aside from the bass and the beats, is Thundercat’s singing—narrow in range, limited in expression, but nonetheless effective in injecting tightly coiled melodies into the steady rhythms. The ballad “Tron Song” is strikingly, almost refreshingly tender, especially considering that it’s a love song for the bassist’s cat (“Don’t ever wonder where I’m going / I always come back to you”), and the banger “Oh Sheit It’s X” celebrates clubland hedonism with a not-so-subtle double entendre on “ecstasy.” More than a few songs address loss, and it’s hard not to hear them as a response to the 2012 death of frequent Thundercat collaborator Austin Peralta—but whatever the inspiration, he’s made big strides along the road from great bassist to great artist. —Peter Margasak Ghosthouse opens.

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