ALBUM REVIEW: Toro Y Moi - Underneath The Pine

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Underneath The Pine

B- | CARPARK | 2.15.11 | MOG | AMAZON | INSOUND

Relax. Draw yourself a nice, hot bath. Throw in some of those fancy bath bombs if you like and let the chillwave majesty of Toro y Moi soothe you into a gentle slumber. That’s at least what Chazwick Bundick, the man behind the moniker, seems to be attempting as he sends opening track "Intro Chi Chi" snaking all around you. Muted basslines and floating afrobeats make the track seem as if it could transform into an Air record at any moment – and it’s at this point that Mr. Bundick throws his curveball, sidestepping the sound he became so famous for with 2010’s Causers of This.

Since finding fame as one of the purveyors of chillwave, Chaz has notably tried to steer clear of a repeat on his success. Perhaps in an effort to not bore his audience but also not bore himself, the multi-instrumentalist releases his second studio album to an entirely different beat. 70s disco, to name just one new influence.

As first track "Intro Chi Chi" shrinks off to a close, second number "New Beat" slides onto the neon-lit dance floor giving the kind of funk flair that begs to be nodded and clicked to, all to the squeaking melody of what sounds like the sky zone level in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

It’s around the third track that Underneath The Pine really breaks out of its shell. "Go With You" serves up sweet, soulful rhythms to a twinkling guitar as Bundick’s soft vocals pierce through your body. "Divinia" is short-lived but doles out enough thick bass over teary-eyed piano to act as far more than mere filler. "Before I’m Done" evokes the hushed power of Blur’s 2002 album Think Tank with even more sparkly splendor while "How I Know"’s rolling pop beats work as a welcome antidote to "Got Blinded"’s vacuous electro loneliness.

This sophomore effort easily builds on Bundick’s previous work. He was always going to have to take it up a notch if he wanted to break free from his fellow chillwave peers and has succeeded gracefully. Smooth groovin’ throughout, Underneath The Pine comes off at times as indie-kid awkward and other times like the spirit of Shaft himself has come down from the crime-fighting heavens to show us what kind of Toro y Moi record he would produce were he ever asked.

To feel the full, glorious effect of penultimate track "Good Hold," grab yourself a pair of sturdy headphones. With a dark, ominous piano melody purveying over the whole affair, Bundick’s simple vocal taunts take you on a bizarre journey into Dr. Frankenstein’s castle. Feel yourself convulse on the floor like a child as Bundick attempts some sort of trippy, jerking eardrum removal. The track feels like it was recorded in a black hole surrounded by drifting panes of stained glass. As your senses come back to life, you wonder to yourself if it would be safe to stop the track mid-way or if that would somehow catalyze your brain into oozing out your ears. Best not to find out.

Final number "Elise" seems a fitting send-off for this record. As Ibiza-style syth starts to work its way into the piece it is blocked by a funk-laden, bass-heavy, indietronica full of metallic guitar and self-harmonizing repeating itself to a triumphant close.

Every now and again, Bundick’s use of videogame-style melody seems to cheapen things. He also cuts things a bit short at 40 minutes, but these are tiny qualms. What this record really excels at is surprise. From "Divinia"’s beautiful simplicity to the peculiar wonder of "Good Hold," Chazwick Bundick releases yet another crowd-pleaser and, most likely, will gain a whole new legion of fans to boot. Expect to hear Underneath The Pine playing in every Frisbee-filled park this summer.

Stream Underneath The Pine