Warm, wistful and nostalgic without ever coming on too maudlin.
Reef Younis 2011-02-21
After the success of Toro Y Moi’s debut album, Causers of This, Chaz Bundick quickly became an unassuming chief purveyor of yet another literary bastard genre. Billed by some as "recession-era music: low-budget and danceable", chillwave is a label that’s as inherently ambiguous in its construct as it is dismissive in its description.
It insinuates a modern laziness rooted in the perception that anyone can pick up a laptop, hotwire a Casio and push out the bleeps and loops to an ever-baying blogosphere. As such, it’s a catch-all term that does Toro Y Moi a glaring disservice – low budget it might be, but low on quality it definitely isn’t.
Spaced-out and sun-kissed, Underneath the Pine seeps a laconic relaxation that’s warm, wistful and nostalgic without ever coming on too maudlin. Where Gold Panda wordlessly created a sepia-tinged soundtrack for flicking through dusty family albums, Bundick’s mindset is equally sentimental but lethargic in its creation of meandering instrumental interludes and down-tempo Beach Boys melodies.
A shift away from the sampling of his debut, Underneath the Pine is kept sweet and traditional with textured harmonies wrapped in giant, twinkling groundswells that typically fall sunny side up. Built around live instrumentation as opposed to being assembled on a laptop, the wheezing organ drones and lazy, syncopated percussion of Intro/Chi Chi set the earthy tone before New Beat sharply drops !!!-style funk into the mix. And it’s here, in these opening tracks, that we’re given the first taste of the album’s contrasts.
Loose, stylish and effortlessly blissful, Bundick’s artistry needs little reaffirming; but where his debut ebbed and segued, Underneath the Pine seems haphazard by comparison – a snapshot series of ideas hastily scribbled into a notebook. Individually they’ve been wonderfully realised and imbued with an unclouded sense of California dreamin’; but with shades of Air’s dreamy pop, funk, jazz, and classic hip hop beats to accommodate, there isn’t the clarity that characterised his lovelorn debut.
It’s a minor criticism, though, and one that doesn’t tarnish an album as equally rich in invention as his first offering. The ever-modest Bundick would also be the last to admit that he’s mastered his craft, but on this evidence he’s taken another step closer to perfecting it.