Album Review: Toro Y Moi – Underneath The Pine

Chazwick Bundick has never liked to put tags on his music, but it appears that the 23 year old South Carolinian is keen on experimenting with every genre available in current popular (and unpopular) culture. In the short year since he’s come into the center stage of indiedom, Bundick has been credited as one of the pioneers of what we’ve come to know as chillwave, he’s put out an impressive disco/house 7” under the moniker Les Sins, and dabbles with psychedelia and what he likes to call “experimental pop” under the alias Toro Y Moi.

During the early days of chillwave perpetuated by fellow South Carolinians Washed Out, Neon Indian, and Baths (to name a few), Bundick came into the scene with Causers Of This, copiously focusing on sampling, disco revival, and progressive house beats. The full length would quickly go on to be considered as the blueprint for the genre: sample frequently, maintain a scuzzy, spaced out ambiance, add hints of soulfully charged vocals, and mix it all on your Mac, rarely using an actual instrument. Obviously, this sounds nowhere near what one would consider “organic,” but Bundick’s next stage in the evolution of Toro Y Moi was to submerge himself deep into this process, devoting his sophomore outing entirely to live instrumentation. Not even a single samples, mix, or computer generated effect appears on Underneath The Pine.

Underneath The Pine is a much needed effort in the predominately digital age, finding Bundick crafting something similar resonantly to Causers, but not something identical. It’s easy to tell that these are actual keyboards, acoustic guitars and drum sets being used to perpetuate soul and funk; However, it’s as easy to determine it’s fabricated by the same individual. “I think people that appreciate Causers can see where I’m coming from with this album,” Bundick told Pitchfork in an interview. True to his word, it very much adheres to the concept of a “live” album, finding Bundick in the presence of a full band, jamming frequently, throwing in a few drum and keyboard solos (plus, tons of arpeggios and even some improvisation), yet somehow still captivating that spaced out milieu he so painstakingly adores.

In addition, he administers a ton of other influences here, particularly psychedelia, as  well as several homages to horror movie soundtracks. There are hints of Animal Collective and No Age style distortion apparent, hints of sci-fi disco and progressive rock, and a wad of jazz style workmanship, most obviously on album closer and highlight, “Elise”. He investigates off sounding chords and off-beat drum patterns, accentuating the usage of echo and reverb on his vocals. On Causers, it was the electro-psychosis that was conspicuous; on this record, Bundick appeals to the formula of a funk/rock album. He continues to shape fuzzy oral pictures with his dreamy demeanor on groovy jams like “New Beat”, but now, it’s very much his vocals that lead the way.

Underneath The Pine finds Bundick ditching his old habits of recording electronically and embracing the traditional method of producing music. It still chills you out. It’s still ripe for getting stoned and moderately nodding your head (if that’s what you’re into), but is no longer necessarily “chillwave,” or at least what we’ve come to accept as chillwave. As an artist who has never cared about how his music was categorized to begin with, it shouldn’t surprise fans that the so called King of this new wave of electronica would follow up with a record that continues to embark on his quest for individuality. Chaz Bundick hasn’t let the pressures of being referred to as the leader of this genre dissuade him from undertaking other endeavors, Pine being a clear representation of that fact. One can only imagine what he’ll do next.


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