Toro y Moi produces incredible third album

Alex Burnham, Writer

Nearly three years after his debut album, Chaz Bundick, known by his stage name Toro y Moi, released his third studio compilation on Jan. 22. The 26-year-old artist demonstrates a musical maturity throughout “Anything in Return.” His calm, seductive music permeates through any aural medium and lulls listeners into an elated stupor.

Part of Bundick’s maturation on this 13-track album is his ability to distance himself from the not-so-distant past. During the summer of 2010, a number of artists, by coincidence, began to create similar sounding tracks. Neon Indian, Washed Out and Bundick all made lo-fi, faded music, with low-end samples and smooth synthesizers. The title “chillwave” followed. This pejorative moniker refers to an overly processed type of music using a minimalist style — usually on a laptop.

However, Bundick’s soulful percussion and airy vocals evoke little of the chillwave era. Only the song “Never Matter” leans toward the chillwave influence. Four minutes and 19 seconds of hip-hop-influenced music, static percussion and jazzy ambience nod toward Neon Indian. The synthesizer adds spatial tones behind a wailing Bundick.

But for whatever quantity of  “Never Matter” that contains residual chillwave, there also exists Bundick’s organic nature. “The questions never matter,” he chants, confirming the underlying message of “Anything in Return.” A subtle acceptance and self-affirmed happiness resonate throughout the album.

This differs from a majority of emotionless electronic music. Digital sounds transmitted through a laptop often lose any semblance of evocative power, but somehow Bundick transcends this barrier.

“Say That” typifies this ability. The song, which contains influences from Los Angeles DJ Flying Lotus, certainly resides within the electronic spectrum. Crunching cymbals blare and reverb crackles — sounds common to electronica pulse. But it lacks no vitality: Jazzy piano rings, creating an upbeat tempo and positive vibe.

Even Bundick’s inaudible lyrics send a foggy message of contentedness: “You and I can be what we want to be,” he breathes during “High Living.” The down tempo song persists in a calm manner. Bundick’s words echo, as squeaky violins screech in symphonic tune. The natural elements combine to create a hazy, dream-like atmosphere.

This at times can pose a problem for Bundick. Critics have labeled this style “pot music” because of its “chill” nature. For some people, this may be true, but this description seems condescending, as if Bundick created his music purely to accompany the consumption of marijuana. It implies the music lacks substance and should only be used for background sound.

However, this vibrant album bursts with energy and cries for attention through subtlety. Even amid turmoil, Bundick responds with congenial acceptance: “Say that you’ll always remind me, because I can’t decide if you’re my love,” he sings on “Say That.” Bundick may have an indecisive tendency, but his warm approach soothes listeners.

“Anything in Return,” through positive undertones and organic sound, elevates Bundick’s status above the prosaic role of electronic button-masher to soulful musician.