Splitting the Differents
It seems like just a short time ago that we were all enamored of indie dance music as reconfigured disco, pop melodies and booming beats bouncing from blog to blog like balls about to be drawn for the lottery. Just as the Aughts became the Teens though, things literally got hazy. Thick, low-fi production transformed the stuff from floor-fillers into headphone trips—warm and fuzzy dream-pop, cold and fuzzy neo-goth. Underneath the Pine, the second album from South Carolina bedroom act Toro y Moi, is a clear attempt to bring listeners the best of both worlds.
Underneath the Pine contains revelatory moments where Chaz Bundick stitches together hypnotic atmospheres and more corporeal beats. The Cut Copy funk of “Still Sound” leads to a twist ending, the song disintegrating into a mist of ooohs and aaahs. “Go with You” features a cacophony of dub echoes and processed overlapping vocals that divebombs into waves of French or Japanese pop.
So since there’s new fuzzy techno-pop on here, does this make Toro y Moi’s work chillwave, that genre of the moment? Some of it might be, but who cares as long as it can strike a nerve? The lush “Got Blinded” could be chillwave; it also could very well have fit on a great Supertramp album. There are other instances where proggy instrumentation and arrangements are supplemented with more straightforward BPMs and loops. “Light Black” is clipped and swirling; “Elise” is a plaintive epic; “How I Know” suggests Animal Collective’s twisted takes on surf-rider melody.
There’s one thing conspicuously absent on the album: pretention. Effortlessly executed without a shred of ego or starfucking, Underneath the Pine threatens to be almost too pleasant and too perfect. For an act and album attempting to be on the bleeding edge of electronica, Bundick doesn’t appear to be breaking a sweat. Still, you want to hang around and hear what Toro y Moi might sound like with even just a bit more grit.