Sunday, March 20, 2011

Toro Y Moi -- Underneath The Pine

You may have missed Toro Y Moi among the overwhelmingly hazy sea of "chillwave" artists that emerged during the summer of 2009. Now I know the fact that I just used the word chillwave makes you want to surf back to Facebook or Twitter, but honestly, stay with me here, because Toro is a different breed, and certainly one that deserves your attention.

Toro Y Moi began as the most typical of buzz bands do -- a one-man, lo-fi project in a Brooklyn apartment. After a series of demos, Chaz Bundick released "Causers of This," a blissed-out experimentation in the early stages of a movement that was soon to be dismissed as "played-out" by the time most year-end lists were drafted. Full of electronic "jam sessions," the album contained a small number of what could be considered traditional, full framework "songs." But on gems like "Talamak," "Blessa," and "Low Shoulder," Bundick displayed true musical prowess and potential as an actual songwriter, not just as a DJ.

Chaz wants you to know he is a musician, not just some hipster with a shitload of samples and a MacBook Pro. It first occurred to me with his session for the Daytrotter Studios, where he seamlessly recreated "Causers" one-man laptop jams through a funky, 70's psych-rock era filter, in a full-band presentation. Again, Bundick reinvented his sound with the single "Leave Everywhere," a fuzzy, swinging guitar jaunt released in the summer of 2010.

On "Underneath the Pine," you can hear the conscious effort to maintain a realistic, live band format for Budnick's oft-copied, stylized, synth pop. Yes, the phasers and endless reverb still play a part in the whole scheme, but with aptly constructed chord progressions, danceable rhythms, and layers of vocal harmonies, the sound results are far from the flat, trance-like music that the blogosphere refers to as "chillwave." With songs like "New Beat," "Go With You," "Got Blinded," and "Still Sound," Bundick proves he can hack it as a true musician and songwriter through more concise, time-tappered songs; these are not just jams to drop acid to. Call it chillwave, call it dream pop, call it whatever is hip on Pitchfork this month; on "Underneath the Pine," we are hearing earnest, calculated songs worthy of critical assessment and acclaim.

Key Tracks: "New Beat," "Still Sound," "Go With You"

-Patrick Fahey 


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