Toro Y Moi Underneath The Pine
Columbia, South Carolina’s Chaz Bundick (aka Toro Y Moi) rose to the fore of the music blogosphere in summer 2009 when he and a few peers made their hazy bedroom recordings the most talked-about sound of the season. Critics across the board took notice of the range of his compositions, and his debut album, Causers of This, showcased his ability to make elements of Brian Wilson’s pop, 80s R&B, and Stone’s Throw hip hop coalesce into a distinct sound that’s as suitable for a dancefloor as it is a pair of headphones.
When Chaz first signed to Carpark Records, the plan was to release two records in 2010 — one electronic and one with live instrumentation — and although it didn’t quite fit into the same calendar year as his debut, Underneath the Pine is that latter offering. This release sees him following the same creative urges to completely different ends. Having spent the year listening to film composers like Ennio Morricone and François de Roubaix, Bundick returned to his home in Columbia, the birthplace of many Toro tracks of yore, to bring his new ideas to fruition. The result of these sessions is an album evocative of R. Stevie Moore’s homespun ruminations, David Axelrod’s sonic scope, Steve Reich-ian piano phrasing, and the pervasive funk of his first record. Underneath the Pine announces a new phase for an artist whose talent defies classification.
Chaz Bear (formerly Bundick) was a musician from birth. Growing up, it was normal to hear music across genres, from Michael Jackson to Elvis Costello to The Specials, in the Bundick household. These influences were quite unique for a biracial kid growing up in South Carolina, contributing to the complexity of Chaz’s self-understanding and expression through his own music.
Chaz began playing and recording original compositions in his preteen years, forming multiple indie bands starting in middle school and continuing until his personal project, Toro y Moi, was signed by Carpark Records in 2009. Before getting signed, he was already an incredibly prolific artist, having released over 10 Toro y Moi albums on his own (and undoubtedly retaining a vast compendium of unreleased songs). His personal work drew upon a vaster array of influences than did his full band. Early Toro work called upon Chaz’s childhood exposure to 80’s R&B, pop and electronic music, while also evolving with his discoveries of acts like My Bloody Valentine and J Dilla and his burgeoning interest in French house. Just before his graduation from the University of South Carolina, where he earned a degree in graphic design, Chaz caught the attention of music bloggers and record labels with his dreamy, bedroom recordings, eventually compiled into his first album under Carpark Records, Causers of This.
Causers was one of a few albums to kick off the trend of home-recorded, hazy albums relying heavily on samples and production, evoking the feeling of a muggy, Southern summer. While the album did well and broke ground for Chaz’s career as a musician, it resulted in the widespread assumption that Chaz was a one trick pony, able only to write music similar to that of Causers. He immediately made it clear that he is an extremely dynamic musician with the 2011 release of Underneath the Pine, an album recorded between tours that was composed entirely of live instrumentation, moving away from the sample-based aesthetic of Causers. From then on, Chaz released an album every other year (sometimes more frequently), each one a display of his adeptness with different genres. While each album was distinct and sometimes a complete departure from the previous, Chaz’s unique production techniques and melodic sensibilities tie them all together. Whether listening to the psych rock-based What For? or 2017’s R&B-influenced Boo Boo, it is always clear that it’s a Toro y Moi album.
The most recent Toro y Moi album, Outer Peace, was written and recorded in the Bay Area after Chaz’s return from a one year stint in Portland. It is somewhat of a homecoming celebration, filled with features by friends and saturated with a playfulness that had not previously been embraced in past Toro albums. Outer Peace stands in contrast to the more sparse and contemplative Boo Boo, an album recorded while in Portland in relative isolation. With Outer Peace, Chaz showcases his ability to remain on the cutting edge of music’s evolution while not taking himself too seriously. There are contemporary hip hop references mixed in with funk, Eurodance and ambient elements, all interwoven expertly and retaining that quintessential Toro y Moi aesthetic.
Only five days after releasing Outer Peace, Chaz posted a photo of a cassette titled “SOUL TRASH V1” on his Instagram with Dropbox link to what appeared to be a mixtape. Later, the post and link were taken down and for the first time, Soul Trash will receive a proper release on October 29th along with a short film by Laneya Billingsley.