Live Review

Thundercat, XOYO, London

It rivals Ryan Gosling’s chat up lines in the smooth stakes.

It should be within every budding musician’s interests to play like Thundercat. Stephen Bruner ought to start a school, if he had any business knowhow. Classrooms could be decked with six-string bass guitars and textbooks on how to play jazz with style. Either that, or Bruner and co. could just, y’know, play, until the method behind the magic sinks in.

At XOYO their entrance is preceded by two immersive electronic sets, one from Ross Tones aka Throwing Snow, the other from Brainfeeder recruit Lapalux. Leagues of gadgetry are no doubt placed behind brick wall upholstery. The former’s appearance is met with a gently stirred crowd, songs from the recent ‘Aspera’ EP finding a fitting setting in the dreamy glow of the venue, housing early evening intrigue. Following up is Stuart Howard, swinging gladly from hip-hop samples to cuts from his ‘Nostalchic’ debut. ‘Guuurl’ sounds positively on fire when it makes an appearance towards the end of his set.

As refined and entrancing as these warm-up performances are, they’re not nearly as interactive as Thundercat. Very little would be. How else do you replicate the three gleeful-looking performers on stage, all throwing every inch of life into their showy, astonishingly accomplished performance?

The songs on Bruner’s latest ‘Apocalypse’ album are used for a different purpose, here. Discernible melodies aren’t the focal point. Instead lyrical snippets in tracks like ‘Tron Song’ act as borders, essentially, meeting points that surround five, six minute jazz-indebted freakouts. It’s not self-indulgent, it’s inviting. You’re entranced by the half-pained, half-euphoric expressions of the performers. There’s enviable style on display, from the solos to the handmade, orange waistcoat than Bruner emerges on stage sporting.

Only ‘Heartbreaks + Setbacks’ - the pre-encore closer - sounds remotely like its on-record kinship. It’s direct in the sense that it doesn’t span over the ten minute mark. Preceded by a dedication to the recently passed Austin Peralta, it’s arguably the most moving moment in an otherwise all-out celebratory communion. For the most part, it puts the HAIM bass-face to shame. In turn it rivals Ryan Gosling’s chat up lines in the smooth stakes. Take note.

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