Stateside fans of Thundercat's album 'Golden Age of the Apocalypse got an unexpected treat Thursday when producer Flying Lotus released a track from the import edition of debut album from the bassist/vocalist/producer via Sound Cloud. Titled simply '$200 TB,' the track features the fluttering jazz riffs of keyboardist and fellow Brainfeeder artist Austin Peralta amid stomping kick drum and tight snare snaps.
Produced by Fly Lo, the song's taste for jazz-minded R&B, ghostly falsetto and jet propelled bass runs makes it an easy fit into Thundercat's debut record, released back in July. Though the track's two-minute run time feels all too brief, we happily accept it as a small piece of galactic tranquility that pairs well with the end of any hectic work day.
At first listen, the tone of Thundercat's fast-fingered, spectral bass playing sounds like an import from a galaxy far, far away. Powered by space-aged synths, smooth chords and star dust, his debut album, "The Golden Age of the Apocalypse," is a ball of celestial frequencies made funky. But try calibrating your ears to the experimental, jazz-literate beat makers at local label Brainfeeder; then it seems plausible that this 26-year-old wiz kid from South L.A. has his sonic spaceship parked in his own backyard.
As a bassist, producer and Flying Lotus protégé, the artist born Stephen Bruner is the latest of the Brainfeeder clique to release an album (out Aug, 30). Aside from his chance to garner some well deserved attention, "Golden Age" walks a step further into the boundless psychedelic shift going on in the L.A. beat scene, mutating in L.A. meeting grounds like Low End Theory, Dub Lab and Funkmosphere.
“I’m happy there’s not a coined term to define what’s going on in L.A. right now,” Bruner said in a recent phone conversation. “People need that undefined, beautiful feeling of ‘Whoa! What is this?’"
His moniker, taken from the sword-wielding '80s cartoon series of the same name, is only a sliver of the fantasy comprising Bruner’s creative aura. Plucking alongside monster musicians of all pedigrees plays a big part.
He was born into a musical family. His father, drummer Ronald Bruner Sr., pounded the beat for acts like the Temptations and Diana Ross. His brother, Grammy-Award winning drummer Ronald Bruner Jr., plays in the Stanley Clarke band. In his own right, Thundercat’s abilities have been landing him a mix of sweaty and sultry gigs since picking up the bass at age 4. How many other bassists can go from a stint in a German boy band (the short-lived No Curfew) to tours with Snoop Dogg, Eric Benet, soul goddess Erykah Badu and punk legends Suicidal Tendencies? Not to mention his recent homegrown collaborations with Austin Peralta and J*DaVeY
In the mid-'90s, the Sony Playstation launched "Twisted Metal," a demolition derby video game that easily convinced teenage stoners to fork over $50 to launch a fusillade of weapons ranging from ballistic projectiles, machine guns and nuclear weapons.
"Sam Baker's Album," the latest release from local Brainfeeder affiliate Samiyam, feels something like the last incarnation of the video game -- it takes '90s boom-bap and the dusted floorboard rattle of producer J Dilla at his most metallic, and welds them into a series of warped shapes worthy of M.C. Escher. There are no M.C.s within; this is instrumental hip-hop at its apex, a genre that has seen a peculiar but welcomed critical revival this year, following a decade-plus of being perpetually dogged.
The influence of Dilla obviously runs rampant throughout, but deeper listening reveals the buried clues. The shouts of M.O.P. and the bloodbath raps of Mobb Deep. Even the sound of cats meowing. It feels like a sweltering California chronic-fueled reimagination of classic '90s New York hip-hop. Tar-caked drums and lingering claustrophobia. Song titles like "Escape," "Bricks" and "Pressure." The auditory equivalent of getting mugged in the middle of paradise.
Of all the Low End Theory regulars, Samiyam's DJ sets most consistently skew toward hardcore rap, with kufi-smacking rappers like Roc Marciano and Danny Brown knocking skulls alongside the latest sounds barrelling out of London (after all, Sam was invited to contribute to the prestigious and real thorough "Hyperdub 5" compilation).
Despite its traditionalist veneer, "Sam Baker's Album" is quietly subversive. It abandons the retro boom bap conservatism that often accompanies many underground rap releases, and replaces it with a chromatic futurism. Odd shapes, sharp corners, and strong weaponry.
Strangeloop's art is nothing like his nuclear near-namesake Dr. Strangelove. While Peter Sellers' rogue scientist sought to incite holocaust, the music and A/V installations of the artist born David Wexler aim to produce elemental harmony. Sound as color, color as sound -- all ambient everything.
Indeed, the mission statement that governs the locally based artist's gallery exhibit at the Gus Harper Art Studio in Venice details his desire to meld psychedelic states with the disorienting flood of modern media:
Through art I seek an understanding of natural patterns, language, and evolution, which for me, are topics best approached through a variety of media and applications of creativity. I am fundamentally inspired by altered states of all varieties, and approach my materials with the intention of infusing them with the awe and strange aesthetics. I am deeply inspired by all forms of mysticism, but tend towards a merging ancient esoteric motifs with the scientific revelations of our age.
Chances are if you've attended anything Brainfeeder or Low End Theory-related over the last four years, you've seen Strangeloop's body of work: computer-constructed visuals full of twisting technicolor tentacles of light. Images that frequently draw upon anime and esoteric film and suggest psychedelic screen savers gone right.
The grandson of Academy Award-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," "American Graffiti"), Strangeloop has made his own forays into film, with his experimental opus “2010: (or) How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Technological Singularity" earning placements at film festivals and a cult fandom for its chimerical imagination and vibrant palette.
In celebration of the art opening and the release of his new Brainfeeder EP, "Fields," Strangeloop will be hosting a party Saturday night at the Harper Art Studio (11306 Venice Blvd). Performing alongside Wexler will be Teebs, Austin Peralta and promises of special guests. The exhibit will feature signed prints, concept drawings, sketches, paintings, 3-D stills and videos. It's free and goes from 8 until midnight, or the DMT wears off.
Friday's Nightlife page in The Times' Calendar section features a profile of Eddie Cota, the 28-year-old booker given the task of revamping the Levitt Pavilions in Pasadena and MacArthur Park into essential summertime music destinations. With lineups including No Age, Ximena Sarinana, Ana Tijoux, Belle Brigade and a Brainfeeder showcase with Daedelus, it seems he's done his job this summer. Read the full profile here.
While it was once the epicenter of West Coast cool jazz, Los Angeles' modal scene rarely gets mentioned by anyone other than genre purists. But over the last few years Flying Lotus has labored tirelessly to correct the imbalance, incorporating jazz fusion flourishes into his ever-expanding repertoire and releasing jazz records on his Brainfeeder imprint.
Considering Alice Coltrane was his great-aunt, it's little surprise that the musician born Steve Ellison would gravitate to tripped-out beatific jazz. But it's a mild shock in the context of the genealogy of pianist Austin Peralta, the latest talent to come barrelling out of Brainfeeder's L.A. headquarters. The son of skateboard king and director Stacy Peralta, the younger Peralta, 20, has been releasing albums since he was 14, with CBS/Sony's Japanese division enlisting him to record alongside Miles Davis collaborators Buster Williams and Ron Carter.