– By Austin Reed –
A very peculiar thing happened to the musical landscape during the summer of 2010. Dance music was devolving in front of our very eyes. Dub step had regressed into something that sounded much more harmful than pleasing—as if the point of the bass line was to cause a rift in the earth. Be it a byproduct of a failing economy or a primal necessity to just take a step back to regain some ground, certain musicians recognized that simplicity was arguably the most potent antidote. A sound had to be established to combat the around-every-turn overproduction that had now completely infiltrated the EDM universe.
By most accounts, this was the birth of the chillwave movement. And for better or for worse, it kind of worked.
Artists traded in the redundancy of bastardized machine-gun MIDI for a more organic, groove-based beat with a lower BPM. Laptops now channeled the unanimously accepted melody of the 80’s, and new-wave inspired synth-pop layered atop this newfound sound with the greatest of ease.
It was all exploratory. No one knew what the outcome of chillwave would be, but perhaps the largest proponent to the genre was the unwillingness of anyone to care. Artists like Neon Indian, Panda Bear and Washed Out produced albums that spoke much more to the progression of music, rather than the burden of categorizing it.
But Toro Y Moi embodied this virtue to a fault, fostering a deeply progressive sound that at-once represented the undiscovered potential and unrealized versatility of chillwave.
Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundick grew up in North Carolina. If you leave this article remembering nothing else, leave remembering that. Toro Y Moi isn’t the product of some cluttered, 400 square-foot Manhattan walk-up that is barely afforded; it came from the relatively ordinary bedroom in a relatively ordinary house in a relatively ordinary region of the United States.
For as mundane a story as Chaz Bundick possesses, however, the meat on the bone is stirringly original. And what’s better? It’s the mainstay of chillwave. In its purest form, it doesn’t require hours of studio time and countless takes to get it right. The irony of the genre is that it utilizes modern technology as a mechanism to collate a sound that spans both the farthest reaches of the globe and the most buried archives of music past.
What allows Toro Y Moi to stand out from the abundance of chillwave artists that surround him is his unencumbered drive to learn from his and his peers’ mistakes. With the musical universe just a cursor-click away, producing original music is easy nowadays. But Bundick’s talent and appeal is in his ability to be both sonically pleasing and innovatively unforced.
It’s precise, and it’s natural. And unfortunately, it’s a commodity.
2010’s Blessa and 2011’s Underneath the Pine were Bundick’s first two stabs at solidifying a leg to stand on in the chillwave genre. Admittedly, there was much to be learned from these albums, but the level of sonic maturity these records possessed were, at the time, unmatched by anyone in the field. The critical success of each album set up Bundick for a myriad of EP’s and guest-spots on other albums between 2011 and late 2012.
But the depth of his talent had yet to be tapped until 2013’s Anything In Return. Bundick’s third album delivered an advanced exposition on chillwave, taking the genre to unprecedented heights with a production clarity and maturity that earned it positive reviews from nearly every corner of the world. Songs like, “Rose Quartz,” “High Living,” and, “Never Matter,” earned a spot on nearly every late-night DJ’s playlist, and album single, “So Many Details,” brought to the forefront the hip-hop inspiration that had existed on a much more cerebral level before. From top to bottom, Anything In Return is considered by many to be a cornerstone in chillwave.
Toro Y Moi secured a mid-tier guest spot at 2013’s much anticipated Austin City Limits music festival, an environment perfect for the likes of Bundick and his refreshingly progressive and universally danceable sound.
Stay tuned for more 2013 ACL Artist Highlights