Toro Y Moi
Causers of This
“Is that Billy Ocean you’re listening to?” came the question, equal parts derisive and curious. No, no, no way, old man. (Can I even say that when the dude is just five years older than me?) No more than you could say that Neon Indian is Spandau Ballet. Now Toro Y Moi is not averse to sampling lost synth textures and beats from ’80s synth pop, new romantic, and new jack swing style R&B, but yeah, y’know, this is total generation gap music. If you’re not paying attention, you’re going to dismiss it out of hand, but fuck man, if you’re listening, and listening close, Causers of This is a record that will constantly reward you with new nuances and ecstatic headrushes.
Toro Y Moi is the nom-de-Casio of young South Carolina resident Chaz Bundick. With a background in punk music and bedroom recording, out of fucking nowhere Bundick emerged fully formed as Toro Y Moi, with a neverending stream of gorgeous lullabies and head-nodders that mix the hazy noncommittals of My Bloody Valentine with the synthesized warmth of Tangerine Dream and left-of-center beatmakers like J-Dilla. Comparisons to Neon Indian and Animal Collective are both valid. This album is ridiculously fine — yielding miniature hit after miniature hit, diamonds of pure crystalline groove (the songs and album are cloyingly brief; say what you need and just leave a seductive silence behind). Bundick’s voice is a gloriously androgynous choirboy lilt, lost in clouds of aether and echo. Like Neon Indian, songs are constructed and collaged from half-remembered choruses and hooks, stored over a lifetime of listening to parents’ records and cool friends’ cassettes.
“Minors” is an epic synth swoon, neverending waves of honeyed bliss that John Hughes woulda killed for on his soundtracks. The rolling piano and Prince-ish falsetto on “Imprint After” are anchored to a heavy bass-and-drums groove that is just THIS close to being cheesy cocktail synth, but man, it works. “Fax Shadow” has a more languid, hip hop feel, clipped, head-nodding beats, and disorienting editing that sounds like you’re turning the volume knob up and down in quick succession. “Thanks Vision” is pure roller-rink hit — I can just imagine the disco ball lights sweeping up and down with the shimmering synth hook, and then it suddenly gets all warped and fast-forwards a decade with the beats taking on a gritty urban feel and Bundick’s voice echoing and duplicating and triplicating, repeating, “Doesn’t matter/Does it” over and over. In “Freak Love,” the backing tracks are all spliced and vivisected, like My Bloody Valentine pushed through a chain-link fence — but it doesn’t at all distract from the narcotic, dubby beauty of the song. “Talamak” feels like perfectly executed new wave, the beats, the synth, the falsetto vocals that reference “modern living” or “model living” (can’t tell), but with a defiantly modern underlying vibe. Just too fucking gorgeous, but too tired for its own anthemic nature. And you’ll listen to the minimal instrumentation (Chris De Burgh guitar, Depeche Mode synths, trip-hop beat, lonely vocals) and intuitive construction of “You Hid” and think, “Argh, why the fuck did I watch TV last night? I should have been writing fucking songs.” And those songs would have sounded like this.