Toro Y Moi, the brainchild of artist Chaz Bundick, is the latest in a series of musical groups in the burgeoning chillwave, or glo-fi genre. Bundick’s debut LP, “Causers of This,” slated for a late February release, provides a fun, if not always interesting, addition to the genre. For those not in the loop (as I was), chillwave is related to synthpop and is characterized by heavy use of synths, extensive sampling, generally down-tempo beats, and filtered vocals. True to its namesake, these elements combine to make music to chill to. Toro Y Moi’s contribution is exceedingly mellow and perfectly danceable, though it is unlikely to be played in high energy, party-like situations.
The album opens with “Blessa,” which had previously been released as a single, and although it is a fine song in its own right, Animal Collective’s influence on Bundick’s work is nowhere more obvious than it is here. Bundick’s vocals have the same ethereal filtering that has characterized Animal Collective’s recent work, and his voice is, at times, remarkably close to Panda Bear’s, which is not to say that this is a bad thing. The track is light, dreamy and soothing, if a bit derivative.
The album begins to pick up with its fourth track, “Lissoms,” whose use of sampling makes for a halting, almost glitchy aesthetic. The drumbeat, when placed atop the synthesizer, makes the song sound almost as though Bundick did not create a new song so much as he remixed the music from a science education video from the eighties. As odd as that might seem, it sounds damn good.
The album’s middle portion, unfortunately, takes a veer for the worse, starting with “Fax Shadow,” which makes overuse of sampling to disastrous effect. Though this does not happen often on the album, the samples used — a man singing “baby” and “it hurts so good” — are repeated so often and in a manner so distorted as to create a disharmonic and jarring sound. Where the previous tracks blended so seamlessly as to be without transition, “Fax Shadow” rips the listener out of the space the album has created, and while the following track, “Thanks Vision” is a solid though unremarkable song, one has to become re-accustomed to the album’s muted, hazy atmosphere, which has the disadvantage of detracting from the track’s redeeming qualities.
Despite the shortcomings in the middle tracks, the latter part of the album makes up for any disappointment with some of the best offerings on the disc. “Low Shoulder,” for instance, founds a base on a bright and popping piano line, giving it a higher energy level than found elsewhere on the album, and Bundick’s vocal style departs enough from his influences to make it an altogether original offering. The final and titular track, “Causers of This,” is similarly energetic, though still rather mellow, and brings the album to a close with a low-key disco-inspired jam, which is somehow appropriate for the eclectic mash of sounds that make up Bundick’s debut.
All in all, Toro Y Moi is off to a strong start with “Causers of This.” Its electronic sound manages to be reminiscent of older forms of synthpop, while still bringing a fresh sound to the table. It might not be the sort of thing to listen to while working out, for instance, but as background noise while working, or at a low-key event, it excels.