Photograph by Jordan Blackmon

Toro Y Moi, the moniker of South Carolina’s Chazwick Bundick, released his sophomore album Underneath the Pine on Carpark Records early last week. While his previous effort Causers of This found a contented spot between Washed Out’s Life of Leisure and Neon Indian’s Psychic Chasms, Underneath the Pine is an unmistakable departure from past practices. Underneath the Pine still develops using ethereal electronics and blasé basslines, but the foundation of Bundick’s work is more urgent and spacious. The record is flush with instrumentation that is a marked transition from sequencing tracks with a blanket-aesthetic of heavy processing to live recording. The result is a cleaner presentation that radiates the subtleties and sonic textures of Toro Y Moi’s earlier works in an environment of organic rhythms and nostalgic flair.

The most noticeable divergence from Causers of This is Bundick’s emergent emphasis on funk and disco. Underneath the Pine illustrates the expansive spectrum of soul and seventies-tinged pop as the record blossoms with arpeggiated piano swathed in synthesizers on tracks such as ‘Divina’. The two minute mesmeriser begins with a slow burning interlude spread with sparse hints of percussion and atmospheric loops until a medley of keyboards and a muted guitar kick in and drive the piece. Underneath the Pine‘s use of instrumentation instead of relying on the sample-based tendencies of its predecessor results in a dynamic record that expounds richness in a cleaner, less distorted and more assertive environment. Toro Y Moi proves his brilliant knack for arrangement and production on standouts ‘New Beat’ and album-closer ‘Elise’.

While sitting in direct contrast to Causers of This, Underneath the Pine is a more convincing and refined effort as a standalone album. The record’s strongest feature comes from the diversity of sources it taps. The variance on Underneath the Pine is a mosaic of soul-pop and retro R&B, all meticulously composed into a cohesive whole. Toro Y Moi avoids filtering gimmicks and kitsch use of distort while still building closely around themes of funk, disco, and jazz. Bundick’s voice drifts amid clouds and rings across the horizon on the falsetto peaks of ‘Still Sound’. The track evolves against a living backdrop of bass, percussion, and piano that sound more consistent with a well-versed band than an analog solo project. Bundick is at his best on ‘Still Sound’ as he pines longingly, “There was a finer life when I was with my friends and I could always see my family, that’s what I still want now even if I’m here and I know they won’t be waiting, ’cause I don’t want to be alone.”

Toro Y Moi reveals further electronic eclecticism on ‘Good Hold’ as the vocal track warps balance and envelops your head in a woozy vertigo leaving Bundick’s chanting to squirm and linger in your head. Underneath the Pine closes with the infectious pop-swells of ‘Elise’. The track’s chorus tangles with dance-infused melodies and layers of hazy riffs that thrust you afloat before wrenching you back into a wall of percussion. He transplants his brand of experimentalism from Causers of This and saturates it in reflections of family and friends, life, and death on his sophomore effort. The album comes as an impressive progression from Bundick’s previous work as it unravels veiled intricacies with each repeated listen and provides ample reason to follow Toro Y Moi as he wanders underneath the pine.

Toro Y Moi – New Beat
Toro Y Moi – Still Sound
Toro Y Moi – Elise


— , February 28, 2011    Comments Off on Toro Y Moi: Underneath the Pine