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Toro Y Moi blends genres on superb 'Anything In Return'

Carpark

By Thomas Klepacz, Daily Arts Writer
Published January 22, 2013

If iTunes genre classifications are indicative of anything, it’s that Chaz Bundick is a complex man. While those within the enormous Macintosh conglomerate doubtfully pay much attention to the arbitrary “Genre” tag of iTunes albums (or Chaz Bundick, for that matter), they nonetheless find it necessary to inform possible buyers of the “type” of music they’re listening to. Lady Gaga gets “Pop,” Lil Wayne gets “Hip-Hop/Rap,” and The Rolling Stones get “Rock.” Generalizations, yes, but they’re simple and fairly accurate. They help to classify.

iTunes just can’t seem to give Chaz Bundick a steady tag, however. The man better known by his stage name, “Toro Y Moi,” has jumped around genres for over three years. His first iTunes item, the “Left Alone At Night” EP, got the tired “Electronic” tag. His first full-length album, Causers of This, got the flat “Pop” tag. His sophomore follow up, Underneath the Pine, got the ambiguous “Alternative” treatment. His latest — Anything in Return — has gotten the same. What, then, does Chaz Bundick make? What is Toro Y Moi?

Simply put, Chaz Bundick makes beautiful music. His sound is eclectic and lively, boisterous but somehow refined. He captures the greatest elements of an array of genres, from House to Folk, and mixes them together in the giant melting pot that is Toro Y Moi. Anything in Return is no different — it grabs, borrows, switches, sits and rides like one grand, soupy opus.

The album’s opener, “Harm In Change,” begins with gentle jazz-lounge piano strikes — keys layered over tapping bass, terse hi-hat, and jangling tambourine. It feels like a sleeper, but gradually evolves into a trancey dance track, equipped with echoing Detroit House yelps and all. The sounds are entirely distant from one another, but Bundick gracefully pieces them together in a way that actually calms the listener instead of spooking them with alien elements. “Say That,” its follow up, is generally more upbeat and quickly digestable — it gives the impression of a gentle dance-hit from the start — but soon fools the listener by diverging into an ominous soundtrack of sputtered vocal sample and climactic synth. Each track is vaguely electronic — house-y but not quite.

Following its techno-laden introduction, Bundwick’s album embarks on the long and frivolous journey from soundscape to soundscape. “So Many Details” features thumping drums and looping keyboard, circling around like a calculating robot. It’s entirely rap-able, but Chaz croons, “What happened to us?” over the escalating beat, eventually reaching a climax of layered synth and juggling tom-tom. It’s epic, elegant, and unintentionally better than 95% of rap beats out there; Bundwick’s sonic unpredictability at its best. “Touch” is muffled and seductive with sizzling hi-hat and pulsating bass, a Toro Y Moi’d “Drop It Like It’s Hot” sans Snoop Dogg’s curling vocals. “High Living” is funky and laconic, a smoked-out California orchestra of strumming bass and vintage drums — it’s like Sublime if Sublime were actually good.

Bundwick reaches too far out into the musical spectrum on at least one occasion — “Cake” feels irritatingly poppy and hectic, as if the mixer forgot to ever mix it — but as a whole, his album is a masterfully crafted collection of sound. It’s not quite Pop, not quite Electronic, and not quite Hip Hop — it’s only Toro Y Moi, a sound of interpreted influence that has taken on a life of its own. iTunes will have to keep searching for now.