Entertaining, sunny-side-up fare, despite its obvious debt to the likes of J Dilla.
Mike Diver 2010-02-23
While wholly generic, to the position of near-pastiche at times, the debut long-player from Toro Y Moi – aka South Carolina’s Chaz Bundick – is nevertheless engrossing and entertaining, lifting as it does from sources as exquisite as the squelch-and-fizz beatscapes of J Dilla and the blogosphere-borne chillwave sounds of summer 2009. If the likes of Memory Tapes and Washed Out have been mainstays on your stereo since the sun slipped behind the choking cloud of continuing winter, Causers of This is a certainty to brighten your own horizons – even if those outside retain their greyness.
Unlike, say, Memory Tapes though, Bundick doesn’t burn straight for a memorable hook, the pop elements of Causers of This trickling slowly from a frame that’s shaped primarily upon forms usually spied and assimilated by artists operating in more dance-savvy circles. Come the album’s midsection, echoes abound of not only Dilla (Fax Shadow, especially) but also more recent purveyors of glitched-and-grafted forward-thinking hip hop: Flying Lotus stands proud as the primary parallel to be drawn. Lissoms, meanwhile, could be a stray cut from Hudson Mohawke’s attention-grabbing EP of 2009, Polyfolk Dance, and alongside the shadowing of stateside influences Bundick does a decent impersonation, more than once, of Scotland’s aquacrunk scene.
If all this wonkiness sounds like a headache in the making, salvation is proffered in the shape of sun-drenched excursions into dream-pop territories: though Freak Love steps to a stuttering beat, the fat swathes of atmospheric keys and underwater echoes are soothing in the extreme, and You Hid is a luscious exercise in languid liquidity. Talamak goes as far as featuring something approaching a simple, sing-along chorus; likewise the sumptuous Low Shoulder, which fuses an 80s synth-pop number onto a raft of 16-bit effects straight out of Sonic 2. The closing title-track could almost be Alphabeat, if the Danes were atomised in Willy Wonka’s Television Room only to appear on screen in a decidedly scrambled fashion. Its abrupt end does rather end the album on a bum note, though.
Much like The Ruby Suns’ Fight Softly, Causers of This is a poorly timed release in terms of coincidence with suitable external conditions. But Bundick has experience aplenty of vitamin D deficiency given the hours he must’ve spent locked away working on this, and he’s emerged sunny side up. It’s worth following his lead, at least until spring breaks through.