Chaz Bundick is all about mixture.
From his stage name, Toro y Moi, which is a Spanish-and-French expression meaning “bull and me” to his half-Filipino, half-African-American ethnic background, to his actual music, Bundick’s M.O. is mixing and mashing.
Bundick adopted his moniker, Toro y Moi, when he began producing music as just a bedroom project while he was a graphic-design student in 2001. At the time, Toro y Moi’s music was a hazy, vintage swirl of Daft Punk, The Smiths and Super Nintendo. Over a period of eight years, Bundick prepared a few album’s worth of material with a sound that is musical medley at its finest: a careful composition of French house, R&B, contemporary pop and alternative hip-hop.
It’s impossible to experience Toro y Moi’s music without being drawn in by the hypnotism of his instrumentals, which feature heavy sampling and are laden with ‘80s retro nostalgia and electric synth-lines. The particular sound has become associated with “chillwave,” a sub-genre of indie electronic pop that blends effects processing, synths and sampling. The trend of blends for Toro y Moi is retro and electropop.
Toro y Moi’s stellar 2010 debut album, “Causers of This,” has tracks like “Say That” which are built on an energetic boogie funk and a modern electro style. “Harm In Changing” and “Studies” and even the more contemporary production of “Cake” all emphasize a number of different types of dance/techno-disco styles fusing with a mix of hauntingly chorded keyboard based melodies. “Touch” and “How It’s Wrong” slow down the pace for more probing jazz-funk numbers.
However, the best track of the album is “Talamak,” a searing ballad that has Toro y Moi pining for a lost romance in a tried-and-true formula that somehow still sounds fresh. It’s an unheralded classic that truly epitomizes chillwave—a retro bassline kept lively with synths and a quiet crooning and introspection from Toro y Moi lyrically.
Toro y Moi globalized chillwave with 2013’s “Anything In Return,” an album that was radically experimental for a chillwave project, blending in elements of jazz and blues that juxtapose the soft voice of Chaz with the eclectic, electronic backdrop. Somehow, the album remains dance/funk at its core, with Toro y Moi delving into the past with a rhythmic and melodic blueprint crafted from ‘70s disco to late ‘80s house and even some ‘90s retro funk revival along with a combination of modern electronic loops and retro synthesizers all synthesized in an organic manner.
Toro y Moi has gotten a good amount of buzz from music blogs, and with good reason. The bass-filled beats in these songs and the manipulation of samples is very psychedelic. However, the whole album is cohesive, and there is some genuine, personal lyrical content here as well.
Toro’s beats are sometimes danceable but not overtly so. The monotonous vocals are lost in the swirl of heavy retro effects, synths and bassline. However that doesn’t mean at all that the songs don’t need vocals or, rather, that they would be better served as instrumentals; the monotnous croon of Toro y Moi provides some semblance of sanity and balance to some degree, and the songs would just be empty without them.
It’s interesting that something which sounds so universally reminiscent can, at the same time, sound unique. For all intents and purposes, as an artist Toro is neither “unique” nor “groundbreaking” and it’s certainly nothing that hasn’t been done before, but the manner in which it was created and executed is strikingly impressive and makes for a fun, nostalgic trip, no matter the era in which you grew up.