Thursday, May 6, 2010
Causers Of This - Toro Y Moi (No Ripcord Review)
Causers Of This
Toro Y Moi
No Ripcord Rating: 7
SCQ Rating: 71%
A few months ago I read an interview with Bradford Cox in which the Deerhunter ringleader/Atlas Sound mastermind playfully sounded off on glo-fi, and what he suggested was a crown stolen from him. Whether he’s serious or not, there’s a solid case lurking behind his claim for birthright. Not only was Atlas Sound’s 2008 debut a haze-riddled bedroom record of groundbreaking proportions, it even featured a song entitled 'Ready, Set, Glow'! I’d take sides but the point is already moot. Between that interview last fall and the present day, glo-fi or chillwave or whatever you want to call it has become an eye-rolling gag, having opened the floodgates for a bevy of well-meaning but hopelessly hazy bedroom acts seeking a place in the sun. If the powers that be awarded Cox his glo-fi subgenre now, I don’t think he’d show.
So what about Toro Y Moi (AKA Chazwick Bundick) and his quietly anticipated full-length Causers Of This? Well, strange as it seems, despite close personal ties with other chillwave acts and assuming the tag – essentially guilty by association – Toro Y Moi doesn’t belong in this subgenre mess. At least not compositionally; by utilizing a throng of 80s-inspired signifiers and beats cut-up like a dreamier Flying Lotus, Causers Of This flirts with retro R&B records as often as any sound pigeonholed to the summer of 2009. 'Freak Love' sounds like a late-nineties boy-band cassette after it spent five minutes in a swimming pool, with pre-sets thrown into a sweltering, undulating atmosphere and a break-beat slowed down as if accidentally sexed up. Such effective sound-manipulation lies at the heart of Bundick’s technique, which evokes the speaker-in, speaker-out psychedelia of 'Blessa' and the stuttering, hip-hop beats that carry him through these thirty-two minutes. In his most surprising moments, as on 'Lissoms', Bundick creates a buzzing instrumental that smoothly (almost invisibly) incorporates vocal samples and a ton of eerie synth-undercurrents without sounding like a grab-bag of random, well-spiced sounds.
It’s easy to commend this album on the sole basis that despite coating his tracks with an incomprehensible amount of tripped-out trickery, Toro Y Moi still branches out into less protected songwriting. 'Low Shoulders' takes honourable shots at Studio’s Balearic-inspired dance while 'Imprint After' finds him verging on the grating vocal-stylings of Passion Pit. The majority of Causers Of This, however, can be translated by the example of 'Fax Shadow', a track so overwhelmed by its own technical prowess, it forgoes seeking out the merits of a functioning song. To call Bundick’s method a collage approach would be offering the benefit of the doubt; to call it blenderized is closer to the truth. We could sit here all day pondering what songwriting is more authentic, the kinetic instincts of stitching stylish sounds together or patiently fleshing ideas beyond thirty-second intervals, but I’m sure a new subgenre name is already prepped to bail us out.
(This review was originally published on No Ripcord... )