The freshest face in the burgeoning chillwave/glo-fi genre, two ridiculous names for a dreamy take on lo-fi pop music, is Toro y Moi, whose debut album Causers of This was released Tuesday on Carpark Records, former home of Beach House and Dan Deacon. Toro y Moi is Chaz Bundick, lead singer of South Carolina band The Heist and The Accomplice, but his sample-based, hypnotic sonic landscapes are a dramatic departure from that band’s straightforward rock.
Toro y Moi’s sound is not completely original; he takes cues from other similar artists like Washed Out and Neon Indian, who also use antiquated synths and vocal samples to embellish their melodies. However, Causers of This is slightly more upbeat and poppy than the output of those artists.
One notable difference is the increased use of cut-up vocals, as Bundick sometimes constructs complete beats out of brief clips of other singers, which themselves seem to draw from other styles, such as soul and R&’B.
Lead single and opener “Blessa” is grounded in a hazy vocal sample, while Bundick bounces above the sheen with a complicated and intricate melody. The music quickly fades out and back in regularly throughout the song, as if it is being submerged and floating to the top repeatedly, creating a seasick but mesmerizing effect.
Causers does best when it features the samples heavily, such as on “Lissoms,” which uses more diverse samples for a funkier feel &-&- colorful and busy &-&- so that it requires multiple listens to take in all its facets. The heavy beat seems to drown out the music when it hits, as if the other sounds in the song are seeping through the cracks of the bass.
Bundick has a wide variety of synth sounds at his disposal, and his choice sometimes makes or breaks the song completely. While light touches of synth seem to sparkle on the chorus of “Minors,” clearing up some of the haze of his samples, “Imprint After” is based around a cheap piano sound and accented with synthetic-sounding horns with Bundick delivering an 80s-style falsetto melody to complete its cheesy atmosphere.
Despite some missteps in instrumentation, Bundick’s knack for writing pop music is undeniable. Album highlight “Talamak” sounds like Junior Boys but sunnier, with squeaky synths and a memorable, expansive melody that don’t overstay their welcome. Its components are simple and economically structured to be short and sweet, just enough to stick.
Although Toro y Moi may be stylistically similar to other artists on the scene right now, he sets himself apart with his skill for writing catchy, intricate melodies and layering vocal samples for a complex sound that invites multiple listens. Toro y Moi will be opening for The Ruby Suns at the Middle East Upstairs on March 27th.