Music Reviews
Underneath The Pine

Toro Y Moi Underneath The Pine

(Carpark) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

“Could Chaz Bundick be any more ‘hipster’ if he tried?” Hipster… eh? That awful tool of social labelling: a backhanded compliment seen by some as suggesting a self-isolating outcast but by others as the crowning fashion of their own anti-cool. Whatever Chaz Bundick is, with a name that is probably a phonetic interpretation of the Inuit for ‘Polar Bears Eat Rainbows’*, and borne into infamy on the back of the Chillwave movement, a crowd that drew as much derision as acclaim, Toro Y Moi, his stage name, fulfils that stereotype to the letter. But after last year’s debut, Causers Of This, Chaz has suggested that the Sophomore, Underneath The Pine, will be a more “traditional” record, featuring “live Instruments” for the first time. If then this new record represents a shift away from the Glo-fi archetype, does it cut the mustard (not a phrase I use often) in the wider world of popular music?

* I must confess it loosely translates from Spanish as ‘The Bull And Me’, in my mind I wasn’t far off.

With all this talk of change then it’s an oddity that the first thing you notice, is what hasn’t. The techniques employed are similar but the ocean of vocal filters and extensive looping shouldn’t come as a surprise, they’re what Toro Y Moi is about after all.

The second thing that strikes the listener is more worrying, the entirety of the album’s length glides by the listener at first, and indeed I found it near impossible to pass judgement after several listens. As a record its tunes are as transient and illusive as its aforementioned heritage dictates – unlike pop they aren’t wired to become cattle-branded in your memory for days on end. But once this is understood, and you’ve been patient, those fast melting melodies finally begin to settle.

And these aren’t just melodies, no, these are hooks, real hooks! – take Still Sound for example, its gorgeous funk inflected party-piece; the swaggering New Beat, or the tense, accusatory riff of How I Know. None of this is top forty material of course, and many of the songs will easily sidle by without addressing the listener directly, but there’s no shame in that: after all when was a pleasant listen ever anything but a good thing?

Like so much of this record the sweetly ghosting Got Blinded reveals more of itself with every listen, demonstrating that it’s with a diligence of subtlety that Chaz has made this work, but one removed and less abstract than much of his previous work. It won’t set the world alight, but this record is a finely fashioned piece of ambient, lo-fi, electro-funk nonetheless.

It is more significant, perhaps, that in being no longer bedroom bound in his production techniques; though still clutching his Casio CZ and sequencer as tightly as ever, Chaz Bundick and Toro Y Moi have with Underneath The Pine taken a step back from the Chillwave label, and a very positive step forward.