Toro Y Moi: Bigger Than Chillwave

Underneath the Pine is a trend-eclipsing sophomore record.

Not to get all "labels are for JAAAARS, man" about it, but of all the artists elevated in the past couple years' rising tide of "chillwave," probably none was sold shorter by the tag than Columbia, S.C., musician Chaz Bundick.

It's easy to see why his debut album as Toro Y Moi, 2010's critically lauded Causers of This, would be held up as a defining example of the form: Like the best of that micro-genre, Causers makes great use of pillowy-soft synths, dreamy vocal blurs, shushing filter sweeps, and somnambulantly slowed samples of what sounds like lite '80s pop. But while Bundick was working with the same gentle brushes and hazy shades as contemporaries like Washed Out or Memory Tapes, he was also painting a much deeper and more nuanced picture.

And from the outset, Bundick's endeavors have been too diverse to confine within a single genre. By the end of last year, he had released a full-length of more dance-floor-oriented electronic tunes under the alias Les Sins, and he was already distancing himself from the increasingly dreaded c-word. ("I've kinda gotten past that sound," he told website At the Sinema in December.) And more recently, he's done a remix for Tyler, the creator of deservedly hyped L.A. hip-hop provocateurs Odd Future.

So it should come as little surprise that Bundick's latest album as Toro Y Moi, Underneath the Pine, simultaneously makes good on all the promise of Causers while further distancing him from its sound. Bundick largely dispenses with Causers' foggy-headed sampledelia ("Intro Chi Chi" is a fake-out) to foreground more traditional—though still soft-focus and '80s-leaning—live instrumentation. Lead single "New Beat" is the best example, a deeply catchy pop breeze bubbling with popping slap bass and floating on a bed of synthesizer funk.

Elsewhere, the album borrows loosely from bossa nova, lounge, and French yé-yé. The drifting, understated vocal harmony and locked-on acoustic-guitar rhythm of "Before I'm Done" evokes Pinback as much as it does the Beach Boys, while "Divinia" centers around a single-finger piano line affecting enough to have been a B-side cut from the score of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Even at his chillest, Bundick exudes a level of talent and a knack for songcraft that sets him above his peers. Underneath the Pine leaves those peers behind entirely.

music@seattleweekly.com

 
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