Monday, March 29, 2010

Review: Toro Y Moi, Causers of This

Toro Y Moi
Causers of This

The glo-fi/chillwave genre tags tend to lump together artists such as Washed Out (Ernest Greene), Neon Indian (Alan Palomo), and Toro Y Moi (Chaz Bundick) as peers in a surging musical idiom. But to disregard the aesthetic differences that make Toro Y Moi stand out from the rest of his contemporaries would be an oversight.

Strong pop hooks, clean vocal melodies, pulsing bass, and meticulous production characterize Toro Y Moi’s debut LP Causers of This. The album’s opener “Blessa” begins with an ethereal intro of filtered and reverbed vocals that eventually drop into a dancy, bass-heavy groove, a motif that threads the album. “Blessa” transitions seamlessly to “Minors” a track that highlights Bundick’s dulcet vocals, which are higher in the mix and less effected than most of his fellow chillwavers.

Album standouts include “Talamak,” “Imprint After,” and “Fax Shadow.” “Talamak’s” syncopated bass undulates and drives, making the chromatic groove of the chorus hit that much harder, while spiky synth hits and Bundick’s breathy, but confident falsettos, float in the upper register. The latin jazz piano intro of “Imprint After” drops out of nowhere into a heavy quarter note bass riff, demonstrating Bundick’s creativity and innovation, while deconstructing the critique of chillwave as a musically monotonous genre. “Fax Shadow” is perhaps the album’s most rhythmically and melodically complex track. Here Bundick isn’t shy about displaying influences such as DJ Shadow, and Bibio. He employs the same cut-up technique you can hear throughout Shadow’s Endtroducing, and on Bibio’s vocals on “Fire Ant” off of Ambivalence Avenue—but it isn’t kitsch. Bundick’s vocals soar while the cut-up vocal track adds texture to the syncopated bass rhythm.

However, Causers of This weakly tapers with the album’s last two tracks. “Low Shoulder” repeats a very similar piano riff from “Imprint After,” while the bass groove and synths sound embarrassingly too much like cliché 80s electro-pop. Similarly, the closer “Causers of This” is schizophrenic with gloopy keyboards, and never establishes a groove you can bob your head to, a departure from what the first nine tracks do so well.

What Causers of This achieves in the end though is a representation of the potential of Bundick’s beat, hook, and production skills, which surpass his current glo-fi peers. And perhaps most importantly, Bundick demonstrates a craftsmanship and attention to detail that will only help him as he grows as a musician.

-- Joseph Romano

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