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July 29, 2015

If a voice has ever given you chills, you have to keep listening or else risk forever wondering what you missed out on. Hearing Thundercat’s voice in the first track on “The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam” is that voice that you should always listen for. It’s a voice of sadness in the prologue of this mini-album, one that carries the weight of not only a musician, but a human and friend mourning the loss of other humans and friends in his life. His own life is allowed to continue, while the others are not.

At each song’s introduction, a spellbinding voice checks in on you, seeing if you’re still interested and invested, like a friend anxious about inconveniencing others in a time of need. The listener is rewarded, however, and beautifully so, with a tune halfway through the album, that bleeds (“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?”) with funk and Thundercat’s signature “makes it look and sound easy” bass playing, paired with his touching and deep poeticism. “Them Changes” is marked by upbeat funk and a tune to bob your head to, which demonstrates that there are still issues at hand that both Thundercat and the listener grapple with: (unrest in an array of communities in today’s day and age, paired with the notion of moving forward in life without those that gave you life and helped you make meaning of it.)

In the songs that follow, there’s a shift in tone. It’s as if the EP itself addresses the listener, letting them know that since they’ve come this far, there’s no turning back. And the result is mesmerizing, with bass lines that join together at the intersection of symphonic masterpieces and jazz experimentation. There’s a layering wall of sound, which feels like a summer night spent camping out in the backyard of your childhood home, complete with lightning bugs and grass that glows in the moonlight. Yet there’s still a hint of sadness, a consequence of simultaneous thoughts of nostalgia and present day. It makes for an EP that’s almost intangible, like the positive side effect that you hope for during a difficult time.

For an artist whose career developed due to, in part, collaboration and experimentation with other musicians, Thundercat has come a long way. But the EP shows how he has remained true to that which obviously fuels his soul: the bass. In the past, collaborations with the likes of Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu, and Cori Jacobs, allowed us to rejoice with the notion that two or more incredibly talented artists understood each other well enough to want to speak the same language, and produce something inimitable. This EP is no different, featuring Flying Lotus, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, and Mono/poly. And it’s part of what makes this EP, and Thundercat as an artist, so special – his ability to contribute to a vision that is marked by collaboration, yet ultimately feels distinctly his own. 

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