Toro y Moi
Causers of This
Label: Carpark Records
If this whole chillwave/glo-fi/dreambeat thing taught us anything, it’s that effervescent pop music can come from little more than a few synthesizers and a smoky bedroom. The heroes of the scene (Neon Indian, Memory Tapes) have all managed to remain enthralling without any tangible studio support – pretty remarkable for a genre that seemed destined to suffocate in the wake of a few great singles.
So that brings us to the awesomely-named South Carolinian Chaz Bundick, whose solo project Toro y Moi has trekked its way across blogs for almost a year now. Born out of the same surroundings that begat fellow chillwave OG Washed Out, his debut effort Causers of This comes about half a year removed from the scene’s initial upsurge last summer. While lacking the premeditated collision its predecessors did, it still presents 11 slick, slightly-gauzy tracks that are perhaps undeservingly hampered by its latter-day release date.
If you’re so dedicated, you could’ve probably found most of the songs on Causers of This a good six months before its release. They’ve been passed around the internet for a significant while now, and quite a few of them predate the ascension of better known artists in the genre. So in a way, Toro y Moi easily precedes most of the scene’s most buzzed acts – however unfortunately, the time since the genre’s initial rise renders Bundick’s music slightly colorless and oddly familiar. The album sounds like an unrefined chrysalis of chillwave; the groundwork is still present (with Bundick singing about the beach within the first half-minute of opener “Blessa”), but the tracks tend to trickle past their edges and into inadvisable, sound-induced-clusterfuck territory. It’s like Bundick didn’t quite know when to finish his ideas, and ends up overlapping countless synthlines, samples and his own instrumental noodling into an indistinguishable haze; the musical equivalent of drawing outside the lines.
Causers of This is certainly more album-orientated then most of its contemporaries, which probably explains why it took until the new year for it to surface as a full-length. Unlike say, Neon Indian’s Psychic Charms, which was sonorously built around pre-release ragers “Deadbeat Summer” and “Should Have Taken Acid With You,” Causers of This is markedly seamless. Clocking in at a mere half-hour, the tracks tend to go through a considerable number of mutations before arriving at their final destinations. And I suppose that’s why Toro y Moi’s singles didn’t catch the same critical apprehension that the other acts did. While something like Washed Out’s “Feel it All Around” is centered on a singular concept, Bundick’s music is abounding with wrinkles, never willing to get complacent. In fact, he’s probably the most musically capable artist in his bracket, incorporating self-played guitar, drums and piano into his repertoire, something his sample-heavy peers lack.
Despite the ambiguity, Causers of This has all the trappings of chillwave’s particular aesthetic, keeping just enough tricks up its sleeve to be worth visiting. If you’re expecting the same detonation brought by the genre’s other disciples, you’ll probably leave disappointed. But I think we can all agree that Chaz Bundick has much more exciting things ahead of him.