Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Album Review - Toro Y Moi

Causers of This - album cover

Toro Y MoiCausers of This


A sweet, slow crackle of speaker backed by a blissed out “ahhhh” brings Causers of This to life, as gorgeous opening track “Blessa” sets an immediately pleasing tone for the rest of the album. A perfect table-setting track—that also happens to be the record’s best song—“Blessa” combines the melody of Panda Bear, with the laid-back delivery and diffidence of Washed Out. Chaz Bundick, the 23-year-old who is Toro Y Moi, may openly display his influences (you can’t help but think he was listening to Ambivalence Avenue released by Bibio last year when listening to more than a few songs) however, on Causers of This he proves to have the ability to carve out his own unique voice in this “chillwave” genre.

In the same vein as Ambivalence Avenue, Causers of This covers a broad range of musical styles. The difference is that Bundick manages to reign in his sound and keep it together in the context of the album. That is no knock on Bibio, who’s album was one of last years best, but Toro Y Moi keeps the listener engaged using a continuous shift in approach while maintaining a surprising sense of continuity. Nowhere is the Bibio influence more apparent than on “Lissoms” where the step-stutter-step of a broken beat begs to be listened to. Drawing itself into and out of the speakers, the jagged, angular beats blend together with tape hiss and subdued sounds of pleasure, contrasting beautifully in the background.

One unmistakable misstep, however, is that previously released “Talamak” is reworked to diminishing returns. The former version of the song featured a constant, echoing give-and-take of volume levels throughout the track. It was subtle enough to not bother the listener, yet was able to weave itself into the fabric of the song. The former also had a creepily awesome opening that somehow reminded you of “The Twilight Zone” and Fischerspooner at the same time. The new “Talamak,” while still enjoyable, is slightly sped up and features the incessant honking of what sounds like a synthesized harmonica, seeming forced and tacky in comparison.

Similarly, a cheesy piano line opens up “Low Shoulder,” which has the opposite effect of the harmonica and works better when it turns into a keyboard synth. “Low Shoulder” goes against Toro Y Moi’s strengths as Bundick seems much more comfortable when throwing down acutely articulated beats (“Lissoms”, “Minors”), or chilling out with a drug induced blend of bass, haze and synths (“Thanks Vision”). “Low Shoulder” tries to split the difference and make itself a pop song at the same time, causing it to teeter a little too dangerously close to the edge of crowd-pleasing cutesiness. The song does manage to close on a high note however, as the second half features much less of the piano, ending instead with a mix of previously successful tricks.

Ending on a high note just must be the way Toro Y Moi rolls, as the title track closes the album on a sugar rush. “Causers of This” is sticky and sweet, as chopped up female vocals are sprinkled across an array of pulsating beats, ending with a repeated “It’s all good, it’s all good.” Yes, Mr. Chaz Bundick, it sure is.

It’s the minor details that keep the album from being great, which is to be expected from someone [named Chaz Bundick] whose musical creativity seems boundless. At times it appears the creative juices were spilling over just a little too much, with added touches that simply do not work. For example the meandering of “Imprint After,” which I can only describe as sounding like bad MGMT, may draw differing reactions. Equally, one’s affinity for the spaztastic, hyper kinetic energy of “Causers of This” may also be the same sound that another listener finds increasingly annoying.

While I fail to see the Animal Collective comparisons to Toro Y Moi outside of “Blessa” and the abundance of bass both use, Animal Collective have achieved the ability to hone their brimming talent into not only wondrously weird and unique songs, but also into universally appealing music. Causers of This shows off a distinctive talent set and promise for future releases, but it does have its misgivings and bumps along the road. This is a full-length debut after all. Forget about that, though because this is an impressive album and would be a warm and welcome choice for your ears and a snug pair of headphones after coming inside from January’s chill.

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