Toro Y Moi - Causers of This

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2010-02-22

So then - chill-wave. It's a rubbish sounding name for a pretty sounding strand of music. For those of us who suffered through the Great Decent Music Draught at the end of the 90s, when to find any good new music you had to wade through a seemingly endless deluge of gawd awful chill out compilations, it's impossible to hear the word 'chill' with out succumbing to an involuntary twitch. But the chill out phenomenon is a pretty apt thing to mention when talking about Causers of This, the debut album from South Carolina's Chaz Bundick aka Toro Y Moi, and not just because he's been bracketed in with other chill-wavers like Memory Tapes and Washed Out. This is an intensely chilled out record. Sure, it's happy, and in many ways Causers of This works as a party album, but don't expect it to dance much. The best it's going to manage, even on the awesome squelchy synthpop of 'Low Shoulder', is a bit of enthusiastic flopping about.

That said, Causers of This is definitely a holiday record. There's no way you can listen to the likes of the left-of-centre deep house of 'Lissoms' with its submerged horn parps, or the easy summer vibes of 'Freak Love' without picturing blue skies, beach barbeques and clear ocean water. All of which makes you wonder why it's being released in the depths of winter. But no matter; in terms of what's happening in music right now, the timing of this release is perfect since it follows hot on the tail of neo-psych works like Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion and Yeasayer's Odd Blood. Causers of This' opening tracks, 'Blessa' and 'Minors', show Bundick has been paying close attention; both feature saturated synth washes, blurry, skittering percussion and the kind of earnestly yearning yowling only a eunuch or a sad dog can pull off. Both, despite their opulent, chewy feel, are strangely downbeat, depressed affairs. Very de jour these songs might be, but they are probably the weakest on an album which gradually sheds its inhibitions and its hipster pose to become the kind of goofy, good time record you can really love.

This process starts with third track 'Imprint After', a bongo and piano driven lazy house tune marred somewhat by some painful-sounding falsetto vocals from Bundick. It's on this track that Bundick reveals his skill as a producer and sound manipulator. It also becomes apparent as the album goes on that he's got an affinity for the experimental hip hop of LA's Flying Lotus (witness the fizzing ambient mash-up of 'Fax Shadow') and a deep love for mid-80s synth sounds. The twinkling, viscous synth on 'Thanks Vision' conjures images of Miami Vice, while 'You Hid' sounds like an off-cut from Sébastien Tellier's 2008 album of robo-romantic balladry, Sexuality. It's tracks like these which make you begin to wonder if Toro Y Moi is really very chill-wave at all.

In fact, in some ways the whole album feels topsy-turvy, as if some how the track-list ended up the wrong way round. How else to explain the fact that the most upbeat tunes, 'Low Shoulder' and the Lionel Ritchie-in-a-blender title track, are the album's final two? Played back-to-front, Causers of This makes more sense and is a better album: a sound journey from an unforgettable house party to welcoming in the new day with hushed reverence on the beach. But it's still a good album. In the end the 'chill-wave' tag might just be a red herring. Since the blogs are already gleefully declaring the scene's death, that's maybe no bad thing. Thankfully, there's enough happening on Causers of This to assure you that Bundick is already on his way to somewhere different.

Richard Morris

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