In the newly developed recipe for homebrewed electropop — sounds of the past sampled with the bleeps and bloops and blips of Barcelonan elevators of the future — music like that of multi-instrumentalist Chaz Bundick aka Toro y Moi is no real surprise. It’s the musical equivalent of a valium come-down or the kind of silky club jams Abercrombie and Fitch plays when they realize they’ve lost the 16-24 age set. Even if his formula’s been done before, Toro y Moi transcends his cloud-bound peers by several strata on his latest album Underneath the Pine, taking the pop out of the basement studio and right into outer space.
Like other purveyors of the chillwave movement, Toro y Moi is an expert composer, layering cooing vocals and waves of plinky piano and fuzzy synth with the deftness of a true maestro. Bundick proves himself a virtuoso with graceful glides between genres and musical milieus, seamlessly transitioning from noise to boombox fodder to driving jams to in a matter of songs.
Some tracks, like funky, night-out tune “New Beat,” are more expectedly electro, which despite six lines worth of “don’t forget”s (and a splash of acid jazz!) is a bit forgettable. When Bundick breaks out the unexpected instruments and musical homage, though, he produces what could be the soundtrack to an underwater all-nighter (please tell me those exist).
On “Go With You,” a driving synth undercuts the swirling headspace of the song, whose breathed “oohs” and “aahs” and singularly smooth piano melody nod to Parisian house Jazz and a Bardot mentality.
“Divina” makes use of tears-on-my-electro-violin wistfulness with, yes, electro-violins, a metronome of single piano-key plunks and a syrupy drum loop to create a rainy instrumental as divine as the title suggests. Equally downbeat is “Before I’m Done,” a pre-emptive dirge with sweetly arranged trombone and acoustic guitar parts, adding endearing analog instrumentation to an album for the digital age.
Even on upbeat songs, like the sparkling aural trip, “How I Know,” Toro y Moi keeps up the melancholy swing, crafting the kind of bittersweet grooves this decade’s Ian Curtises might dance to, ironic limbs a-flailing.
In this textured, sonically lush album, Toro y Moi anchors himself and his chilled out cohorts as valid contributors to music, and not just the spawn of Garageband and strained father-son relationships.
Album Rating: 7/10