Toro Y Moi
Anything In Return
, February 8th, 2013 09:13
Chaz Bundick nearly had us all fooled. His undeniably ambitious work ethic, coupled with an unruffled hairdo and modest twinkle in interviews, almost made us succumb to his unbalanced musical sketches. However, behind the genteel manner and his pair of perfectly circular specs, too frequently his work feels like the result of someone with talent not yet knowing how to put it across in a focused way.
Since late 2009, Bundick's principal project Toro Y Moi has been as prominent a presence on social networks as reblogged cleavage. His wishy-washy home recordings became the touchstone of chillwave, that loosely grouped genre that unfortunately seemed to consider summer BBQs a key influence. Although its processed tremolo wonks, distant cooing and meandering vocal lines made 2010 debut album Causers Of This agreeably woozy, it felt more like the work of a bedroom producer still finding his feet than the complete deal. With the diaphonous genre struggling to connect IRL, Bundick changed suit, releasing numerous records under other pseudonyms. And this third album Anything In Return, is supposed to be a summation of his brief yet prolific oeuvre.
Well, to a certain extent it is. The album seems to illustrate a desire on the part of Bundick to make a name for himself as producer. Unlike 2011's psych-funk muddle, Underneath The Pine, Anything In Return sees him return to his computer hermitage, as he constructs a kaleidoscopic look over his work to date. Elements of his house project Les Sins are prominent - the collision of slowed Cherie Lee or Mood II Swing-style house edits and meditative pop is especially evident in 'Touch' and 'Say That' - but the results feel grooveless and lacking in depth. The latter's mind-numbing turn of phrase, especially - "She's alright, I'm alright, we're alright" - becomes incredibly wearing. Perhaps the idea is that the lyrical bunkum is compensated for by depth of production. Unfortunately, the results merely sound aimless and rushed. And while songs like ‘Harm In Change’ and ‘Grown Up Calls’ hint towards more varied horizons, Bundick’s experimentation with processed electronics and ad lib synth solos feels frustratingly disposable. 'Touch,' again, is merely a brittle skeleton of a tune that feels as if it has been included by mistake. The track might have been more successful on the Freaking Out EP, but here feels like filler.
The recurring problem throughout is that these tracks rarely offer anything in the way of payoff. Moments in ‘Cake’ and ‘High Living’ fuse queasy vocal splices, futile percussive samples, and a series of monochrome nods to synth-pop and bump 'n' grind R&B, for that modish 90s tinge. 'Rose Quartz' is passably tranquilising with its synthy jazz organ playing on the offbeat as Bundick morphs the unfortunately apt line "I feel weak" into a candied house chorus. Parts of 'Cola' and 'Day One' see Bundick utilise traits of his washed-out debut with sun-crushed snare hits and enough reverb to make even Neon Indian feel queasy. The overall feeling is of goldfish nostalgia, lacking any depth or coherence beneath its very pleasant exterior.
As a result, Anything In Return feels again like the work of an artist still exploring his sound and yet to pin it down to something concrete. While no one can fault his work ethic or commitment to pushing his sound in new directions, as yet they've not been enough to make any of his releases - including this one - feel particularly striking as complete pieces of work.