Is It Love?

Posted on September 28, 2011 by


The Golden Age of Apocalypse by Thundercat

by Kyla Marshell

Take me all the way back to 15, when I loved everything with my whole body, when the slightest touch shot me straight up, shuddering, so aware of my skin. Take me back to first kisses and slow dances, best friends forever, your jagged half of the heart inseparable from mine. A joy ride with quick wind, long nights of giggling, long, forever moments of unwavering certainty, yes, everything certain, nothing changing; take me back to when I killed myself with loving, loving everything in sight.

That’s how I feel today—15. It’s how I’ve felt for the past week. I’m excited, enlivened, overtaken. My teenage version of love—obsession—has returned. And all because of a song.

It’s a cover of a George Duke tune, called “For Love I Come.” The artist is Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, a bassist. But not a bassist in the way I’d ever thought of before; because when I listen to his music, I feel something. I don’t think about the chords or lines or whether or not the lyrics are good. I hear something pure. I hear something rare.

A great piece of music should be like a great novel or film—detailed and complex, tonally dynamic. Highs and lows, surprise, suspense. But how often do we get to hear music that accomplishes this goal? Rarely. Most of the music I listen to, though thoughtful, or artful, or both, lacks the ability to create an emotional response in me. And a passionate one at that. One where it almost hurts to listen to. One where the music shines so brightly, you have to turn away.

Part of me wonders if my reaction to Thundercat’s album is purely personal—that something in me connects with something in the music that cannot be recreated in this fashion in anyone else. I hope so. Contemporary music has devolved into formula, equation, the idea that A plus B will automatically create the same response in every listener. Music, today, is rarely complex enough to mean something different to every person. The je ne sais quoi factor is often reduced to the I Know Exactly What ploy—get this guest feature and this producer and voila! you will have a magical musical product. Rarely do we get something with literal spirit with soul. Something made from someone’s body that, when it makes contact with your body, can only do one thing: move you.

Thundercat’s music reminds me that everything, every piece of art, every idea, every human, is more than the sum of its parts. Like a mosaic, a picture complex in its makeup, where every piece has its own significance, but that is for more meaningful when you step back, take in the image as a whole. Just like any other musician, he must experience the mundane tasks of practicing or cleaning his bass; listening to takes over and over again; talking to band mates, working out ideas, failing, trying again. He has to consider all of the assembling parts. But it’s what those parts do, as a whole, that means something. It’s that step away from the portrait that really makes you see.

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