Underneath the Pine, Toro Y Moi’s followup to 2010’s Causers of This, is still remarkably chill for an album making strides to shed the chillwave label. Chazwik Bundick (the man behind Toro Y Moi) never asked to be the representative of last year’s dreamy psychosynth movement- in fact, one can look all the way back to Panda Bear’s 2007 solo album Person Pitch for some contextual foreshadowing. Bundick, though, did practically surf in on this tidal wave of infectious beachiness (contrary to popular belief, his debut wasn’t released until post-summer 2010) and for that he ended up branded as innovative pioneer- oh well. Chillwave had its summer in the spotlight, but then the summer became the fall, the fall became the winter, the winter became the year, and the year became omnipresence. The marketplace was quickly smothered beneath bands like Neon Indian, Ducktails, and Washed Out- among others- who were all churning out hazey collections of ambient glo-fi at various degrees of oversaturation. It was a strange, difficult few months for music. A lot of it sounded interchangeable, and as Soundcloud and Bandcamp emerged, there were more of these sounds than ever before. The chic originality grew predictable and monotonous. And then suddenly, Toro Y Moi released Underneath the Pine, at quite possibly the worst time to drop a chillwave album- let alone, a followup to what many regard as the chillwave album.
So it’s probably a good thing that Underneath the Pine is not quite so chillwave. While Bundick hasn’t necessarily turned his back on the genre, he is focused in a different direction this time. For starters, Pine feels stronger and healthier than his debut. As knowingly cool and hip as Causers of This felt, it was also formless, devoid of catchiness in favor of atmosphere. This lead to the occasional inconsistency, most notably in its latter half. Here there seems to be a bigger focus on structure and goals- which subsequently strengthens the album’s pace. This isn’t to say that Bundick has reinvented himself as a dour, buttoned-down structuralist. Pine is appropriately insane and, in what I can only suspect will become a band trademark, many of the tracks again sound joined at the hip as if they were suites separated at birth. The album begins in a familiar way with “Intro Chi Chi”, where we hear the delicate ambient soundscapes prevalent on Causers. Yet, as the album continues, Bundick opts to utilize more traditional funk arrangements with “New Beat” as well as a pulsating, ethereal rhythm on the frantically catchy “Got Blinded”, a piano driven tune that catapults the listener into Pine’s second half. Alternating with ease between avante-disco and electropop, there are moments here when Toro Y Moi sounds vaguely TV on the Radio-ish at their most coy, albeit with heavy doses of naughty freak folk and porn-esque musical influence. Suddenly, the listener is asking themselves, "Is this Post-Chillwave... already??" It’s a dizzying experience, songs speed along uninhibited before depositing the listener in the sidecar of new tracks, rinse, repeat- and for the most part, this rollercoaster technique works extremely well. However, Bundick hasn't yet mastered the art of ending an album. Tracks like “Good Hold” and “Elise” tend to drift away desperately in need of a tether. It’s admittedly one hell of a ride- yet somehow, like it’s predecessor, it feels incomplete. Pine stops instead instead of ending- as if the ideas have been purged and now it is time to move on. Perhaps that was the intention. Though as frustrating as this lack of closure can be, it doesn’t change the fact that I am frequently amazed by the talent, ability, and execution of Bundick and co. And it is a compliment to Toro Y Moi that I fully expect to be no less than blown away by their next project- whatever that may be.
STANDOUT TRACKS INCLUDE:
Toro Y Moi - New Beat by thesubs-blog
Toro Y Moi - Divina by pasalavida
Toro Y Moi Got Blinded by stellarola
Toro Y Moi How I Know by stellarola