Release Date: Jan 22, 2013
Record label: Carpark Records
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
Though lumped in with the woozy-pop "chillwave" trendlet, Chaz Bundick has always had more cooking: Latin disco, soul jazz, bubblegum hooks and Princely funk shining amid glitchy synth washes and Animal Collective freak grooves. His latest is almost a straight R&B/dance set. But romantic certainty is in short supply. "Do you think we did it right?" he asks on "Cola," a smeary, psychedelic slow jam.
So where does that leave the album? A little unbalanced, Anything in Return nevertheless showcases again just how good its maker is at his craft. Pop music this certainly is not, but Bundick’s talents at furthering an ever-adapting genre into something far more interesting are plenty satisfying..
Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundick isn’t the kind of guy who likes to repeat himself from release to release. His debut album, Causers of This, was murky, subtle chillwave, the follow-up, Underneath the Pine, was a much brighter affair that sounded equal parts space age bachelor pad music (à la Stereolab) and late-night disco. He followed that up with Freaking Out, a bubbling, funky EP, and then 2013’s Anything in Return, where he mostly casts aside the guitars that populated Underneath the Pine and sticks closer to a sleek and subdued Chill&B sound that sounds like a sadder version of Freaking Out.
It’s nearly inconceivable to talk about Toro y Moi without a point of reference, and yet it seems almost doubly impossible to find one. From the “chillwave” Causers of This to the Euro-funk Underneath the Pine – even last year’s retro synth-pop EP, Freaking Out – only one thing binds each Toro y Moi release together: the voice and songwriting of Chaz Bundick. In two years alone, from 2010 to 2012, Bundick has made more progressive, genre-bending leaps than most artists make in a career.
Toro Y Moi reminds me of a Portlandia character. He’s a graphic designer and electronic musician. At the age of 26, he’s releasing his third studio album, Anything in Return. There’s also a half a dozen EPs and handful of remixes on his discography pushing it towards the brink of show-off status.
Chaz Bundick, aka Toro y Moi, is one of music's shape-shifters, a singer-songwriter and bedroom producer who cheerfully hops from genre to genre, mostly to avoid the awful label chillwave slapped on him even before he released his debut album of dreamy yet wayward electronica, Causers of This, in 2010. Since then he's taken two steps forward into dance music (the EP Freaking Out), one step back into jangly indiepop (the compilation June 2009), and now returns to the disco house party with his sharpest album to date. Opening track Harm in Change thrillingly layers clean piano, distorted keyboards, crisp percussive snaps, low-end drum rolls, inarticulate female moans and a vocal that grows more urgent by the minute.
We like to think of artists as straining against their limitations, pushing boundaries, confounding expectations, and provoking listeners. This framework makes it easy to underestimate the kind of ambition Chaz Bundick's demonstrated within the context of Toro Y Moi. He's a prolific artist who never comes off like he's in a race with his muse; he subtly expands his range and refines his production skills, but in genres uniformly bereft of bombast or overstatement.
Toro Y MoiAnything In Return[Carpark; 2013]By Joshua Pickard; January 28, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetWhat happens when an artist is carried along on a tide of musical criticism and useless labeling? Since we're asking, I’d say that Chaz Bundick would have a pretty fair idea of how to answer that question. As Toro Y Moi, his music has often come under attack as being too formless, too reliant on setting moods—too much attempted style and too little accomplished substance. There’s not much doubt about his abilities for the most part, but some feel that his approach to washed out nostalgia-based electronics can at best be described as unstructured, and at worst as exceedingly tedious.
Modern music is a confusing landscape. With so much innovation, the boundaries of what we once felt comfortable with have blurred. Obviously, it’s natural that as a listener we need to make sense of it all, to process and file every sonic sub-genre, cataloging our music collection, pinning our butterflies. However, as an artist at the forefront of a movement those labels can be a weighty mantle to bear if you let them anchor you down.
Chaz Bundick – the 26-year-old South Carolinian who plies his trade under the name Toro Y Moi – knows how to manoeuvre his way out of a tight spot. His 2010 debut, Causers Of This, saw him boxed in with the chillwave movement – by then already at least a year old. However, with 2011’s excellent Underneath The Pine, Bundick punched his way out of the chillwave pigeonhole with a set of songs that drew inspiration equally from Broadcast and Burt Bacharach.
Of all the artists to emerge from the chillwave craze, Toro y Moi (aka Chaz Bundick) has arguably been the most successful at transcending the confines of the genre and carving out his own path. His previous full-length, 2011's Underneath the Pine, replaced woozy electronics with crisp live instrumentation, while his Les Sins side-project has given him an outlet for his dance floor-oriented inclinations. With these stylistic turns in mind, Anything in Return functions as an all-in-one summary of Bundick's talents, giving the impression of a maturing songwriter who has found his wheelhouse.
The whole point of Anything in Return is that it was made with the intention of conforming to mainstream pop credentials. In an attempt to describe his new angle, Chaz Bundick pointed towards The-Dream and Beyoncé as influences for his latest approach, which meant a structural shift in direction away from the sensual laptop candy of his debut and the refined spillgaze of Underneath the Pine. It was time for him to swallow his hypnagogic glo-fi chill pills and glide freely towards the gilded peaks of a sparkling, edgy terrain.
The summer of 2010 was the season of chillwave. Indie music got swallowed up by ethereal synth chords and lo-fi vocals filtered through layers of haze, fuzz and a languid West Coast disposition. Chaz Bundick, better known as Toro y Moi, was one of its pioneers. Since then, the 26-year-old producer/songwriter moved to California from South Carolina and, ironically, is steering away from the sub-genre he helped define.
Chazwick Bundick, aka Toro Y Moi, is 1) bosom buddies with Tyler, The Creator; and 2) owner of the world’s coolest name. If his music was as impressive as either of these things, we’d all be laughing. Sadly, that isn’t quite the case. ‘Anything In Return’ is no disaster, but having released three solid yet unremarkable albums in as many years, the lack of any real progression or improvement is making the warning lights flash.
It has been a while since Toro Y Moi, aka South Carolina's Chaz Bundick, was the recipient of untold rave reviews for advancing chillwave, synth-pop's fashionable offspring. As it's a genre that wasn't built to last, the producer has opted to move on, adding house's energy and masses of detail to his trademark languor on this, his third LP. At times, as on So Many Details and Rose Quartz, it has a youthful glow, but over 13 tracks Anything… lacks substance, with several slight tracks coming on like snippets from a DJ set of the late 90s.
Anything in Return is a self-assured, adult album. Full of determined beats, it's worlds away from our first introduction to Toro Y Moi, 2010's chillwave hallmark-heavy Causers of This, and a quantifiably large step up from early works comp June 2009. The shift is not a surprise. We were warned that maturation was on its way, as sole proprietor Chaz Bundick noted in interviews that his goal with the new album was to embrace sincerity while avoiding bubblegum.
As many eye-rolls as it may engender, it’s important to address that particularly chill and wavy elephant in the room, because as much as Chaz Bundick rejected chillwave and the other artists that were tagged with the moniker, its history provides a valid reference for Bundick’s work as Toro y Moi. And it’s important to get it out of the way, because with his third record, Anything in Return, he consciously moves even further away from the aesthetics of the short-lived microgenre he helped accidentally pioneer. Bundick’s attempts to distance himself from the hazy, nostalgic atmospherics associated with the genre pushed his second record, Underneath the Pines, into richer territory.
Three albums in, Chaz Bundick's solo project Toro y Moi has leapfrogged blissy, computer-fog peers, and now sounds less and less like a hypothetical band. January's Anything in Return feeds an audio dopamine drip – synchronized, compartmentalized, and gorgeously sequenced chilled-out funk. Lead single "Say That" drops roots in early techno, bouncing around pillowed drums and an elastic vocal sample, while "Cola" might be the first electro slow jam worth our attention.
Beginning the year with fashionably great music is always a welcome addition. Now, for three of the past four years, Toro Y Moi’s main man, Chaz Bundick, has released a terrific new album at the beginning of each year. Commencing with his debut, Causers of This, where he, along with friends, ushered in the sounds of ‘chillwave,’ it was quickly followed with Underneath the Pine’s new funky and soulful vibe – Bundick has shown a deft hand at delivering the goodness early on.
Both a continuation and extension of this artist's previous offerings. Luke Slater 2013 Toro y Moi, alias South Carolina’s Chaz Bundick, has built his reputation through producing punchy and beat-heavy music, suitably fronted by his own voice. Chillwave is a label often thrown at him, but his music is often more complex than much of what falls under that banner.
The Chaz Bundick project known as Toro y Moi is probably most readily associated with the subgenre known as chillwave––according to legend, a genre he pioneered. The songs on his first two studio albums feel far away, aloof; they hide emotion rather than present it plainly. His is a style that demands multiple spins, to let it all wash over you again and again.
After years of unfair neglect, “Pop” is beginning to slip back into acceptable vocabulary. ‘Call Me Maybe’ cemented the revolution; a song that might’ve otherwise expected a similar reception to lukewarm powder-mix custard being served in a fine-dining establishment was adored and sung along to almost unanimously. Only last week Justin Timberlake launched a teaser video that showed him sauntering moodily around his house MTV Cribs-style, before dramatically husking “I’m ready”.
Toro Y Moi has taken the well-driven road of bedroom hobbyist to studio artist. And he’s not embarrassed, in fact Chaz Bundick is flaunting it with a declaration called ‘Anything In Return’. It’s not contrived reinvention, but natural progression; this is Toro does pop, not pop does Toro.Despite being more immediate than previous work, ‘Anything In Return’ maintains Chaz’s longevity and craftsmanship.
Chaz Bundick nearly had us all fooled. His undeniably ambitious work ethic, coupled with an unruffled hairdo and modest twinkle in interviews, almost made us succumb to his unbalanced musical sketches. However, behind the genteel manner and his pair of perfectly circular specs, too frequently his work feels like the result of someone with talent not yet knowing how to put it across in a focused way.