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Toro Y Moi

Causers of This

[Carpark; 2010]

By ; February 4, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

In the winter of 2010, chillwave already feels like a distant memory. I’m not sure if that’s because the warm, supposedly careless days of summer are gone or simply because it’s a fad that has reached its 15 minutes, but either way it’s anything but fashionable at this point. It’s strange, then, that chillwave wunderkind Toro Y Moi (aka South Carolina’s Chazwick Bundick) would wait until February to release his debut album. Bubbling under for quite a while, Toro Y Moi seemed like one of those unsung hero acts who did the gimmick really well but were still under-appreciated and unnoticed in the wake of more immediate, trendier artists. Causers of This’ humid haze feels anachronistic in winter (sorry, southern hemisphere readers), unfamiliar and mocking. Then again, not a lot about this album really feels right. The cover looks like a cross between an early-’80s new wave album and a low budget educational video, and there’s something off-kilter about the mishmash of styles and genres on display.

Toro Y Moi is essentially “chillwave,” yes, but I don’t mean that diminutively. While that particular genre has come to double as a sort of pejorative, Bundick is free of the frustrating ineptitude of most of the chillwave moment – for the most part, his songs are songs. He’s got a great grasp of melody and is a wizard with samples. The songs burst out of the gate sounding fully developed as opposed to one-note, one-filter gimmicks stretched out to three minutes. Even better, he’s got a diverse set of influences, and sounds just as at home making chillwave jams as he is channeling warm, classy late-’70s adult-rock. When he’s not sounding like a superior Neon Indian, he sounds like a more fully imagined CFCF. However, as nice as the music itself is, the vocals leave a little bit to be desired; Bundwick’s vocals are competent but lack character, and he sounds as if he’s just finding his voice, alternating between a reedy (if not agreeable) high register and an outright falsetto that approaches Passion Pit levels (this is not agreeable).

Lead single “Blessa” has been getting all the buzz, and rightly so; it’s a lushly produced, pulsating thing with shimmering strings, and “Minors” one-ups it with a full-on sampled string section, like Panda Bear singing over a Jens Lekman track. Things get a little spacier on instrumental “Lissoms,” which is essentially a Neon Indian track (only better), and the massive bass drops on the trippy “Freak Love” are enough to make anyone queasy. But Toro Y Moi is at his best when he breaks out the funk; it’s the thing he does best on Causers of This and one of the things that sets him apart from the ever-growing pack. Whether he’s channeling midnite funk à la DâM-FunK on “Thanks Vision” and “Talamak” (the latter track tipped by Kanye West himself) or straight-up, more exuberant fare like the piano-driven “Imprint After” or “Low Shoulder,” it’s infinitely more engaging than the more self-consciously “pretty” numbers. Things hit an absolute peak with the closing (and title) track, a restless, exuberant pop track with irresistible chopped-up vocals and Bundwick finding a wonderful middle-ground between his iffy falsetto and more acceptable middle range.

Causers of This is not perfect nor is it one of those gatecrashing debuts that catches everyone off-guard and launches its creator into the stratosphere. But it is what it is, and it’s a solid 33 minutes, even if its ultra-compressed sampled sound starts to cause fatigue after about 20. The album has flaws, yes, but they aren’t fatal ones; Bundick, for about half the album, feels as if he’s blindly fumbling to find his sound, and some of it just feels superficially pretty without much of anything else underneath. He’s got an ear for appealing sounds, a competent set of pipes (even if he still hasn’t located his ideal range), and can write a mean melody – now he just has to find a way to put all of these things into one track instead of spreading it all so thinly. But tracks like “Causers of This” are proof that he’s got something up his sleeve, and he just needs to shake it out of there. For now, Causers of This makes a nice preview of a promising career.


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