Like much of Thundercat’s work, The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam takes a few full listens to fully grasp and appreciate considering his unique brand of jazz/funk can be hard to fully immerse yourself into with just one or two plays. Opening track ‘Hard Times’ is Stephen Bruner’s haunting way of introducing the overall sound of this six-track mini-album in a foreboding, yet comforting manner; Bruner’s echoing vocals have never sounded as good, with the intricately layered harmonies that we have come to expect from him.
Lyrically, much of the album seems to take influence from Flying Lotus’ last album You’re Dead! but this is hardly surprising considering FlyLo co-produced this record and has worked closely with Thundercat for a number of years. Death and the afterlife have always been prominent themes for both artists and the trimmed down nature of this release results in every track hitting the mark and creating a new one while it’s there.
‘Them Changes’ is when Flying Lotus’ presence is most apparent. While Thundercat croons with a precise delicacy like no other, Flylo’s funk-infused melodies carry the song, making it the most accessible track out of the six on offer. However, it’s clear from the bulk of this project that he saved a lot of his accessibility when writing tracks for Kendrick Lamar’s latest album and other, similar works. This allows for him to exercise a flexibility and freedom in terms of songwriting that can be heard throughoutThe Beyond/Where the Giants Roam. While its sound is meticulously detailed, it is the air of spontaneity that holds it all together.
Furthermore, it is rare for two different musicians to meld together quite like Thundercat and Flying Lotus do. Regardless of whose project it is, both of their styles compliment the other’s perfectly. Thundercat’s prominent bass is accentuated by FlyLo’s electronic flourishes and while the whole album does entertain and intrigue, it’s slightly let down by the running time. It will undoubtedly serve as a suitable precursor to Thundercat’s next project though and that should nicely fill the gap that this brilliant, but short album has created.