Album Review Toro Y Moi - Underneath The Pine

Confident and fully formed.

‘The beach thing is coincidental. If I look at a band like Best Coast or Wavves, they live on the beach. I go, like, once a year.’ This was how Chaz Bundwick, aka Toro Y Moi, dismissed lazy attempts to equate ‘chillwave’ (another term he doesn’t particularly care for) with hanging out beside the sea, sand between your toes, cold drink in hand. That being said, sundowners on some tropical island is exactly the image conjured by opener ‘Intro/Chi Chi’, to the point where it’s not difficult to imagine TV producers making this the soundtrack to a montage of some exotic, five-star holiday getaway. It’s also something of a curveball.

See, Bundwick has long been hinting that album number two would be a departure from debut ‘Causers Of This’, the only questions being to what was he migrating, and how far he’d take it. He mentioned to us in November that it would have more of a ‘band’ feel, with live drums and other instruments, and there had been hints that it would be more ‘folk’ in nature, with Bundwick rediscovering his love for acoustic guitar. One listen to second track ‘New Beat’ confirms that guitar does indeed dominate his new sound, but it’s the four-string variety that provides the album’s focal point.

Running all the way through ‘Underneath’ is an incessant, retro, soul-funk bass groove, which Bundwick augments with an expanded sonic palette of piano, organs, and yes, a bit of acoustic guitar. Abandoning samples in favour of recording everything live has lent all eleven tracks a warmth and intimacy, and further showcases his ability as an arranger and producer. It also rewards sequential listening, although it’s interesting to note that every track is good enough to survive on its own merits. It may be obvious what the singles will be, but the rest never feel like fillers, inconsequential pauses, or worse, someone scrabbling around for ideas. Everything is confident and fully formed, from the easy, 70’s lounge music vibe of ‘Go With You’ and the deep organ and repetitive, poignant piano on instrumental ‘Divina’, to the quirky harmonies and acoustic guitar of ‘Before I’m Done’.

Bundwick does wear his influences on his sleeve, and the standout tracks – ‘New Beat’, ‘Still Sound’, and ‘How I Know’ – all share the same, 70’s disco-funk roots, but his trick is to make everything sound so modern, so now. Even ‘Good Hold’, the closest track to earlier material with some interesting right to left, treble to bass fades in the middle, comes across as new, interesting and the work of someone dedicated to honing his craft. It fades nicely into closer ‘Elise’, his longest track to date and featuring some nice soul guitar towards the end. Perhaps significant is the fact that he’s the first of the chillwave set to release a sophomore effort, and the first to take a firm step away from that genre’s distinctive sound, texture, and raw material. Whether the others follow or not will be interesting to see, but overall you’re left with the impression that here is an artist plotting his own course and steadily finding his own feet and voice whilst refusing to be pigeonholed. This certainly won’t be the last we hear from him.


Tags: Toro Y Moi, Album Reviews, Reviews

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