Like his contemporary—and occasional label boss—Dan Snaith, Chaz Bundick is a curious and intellectual pop craftsman whose heart can’t help but push him toward the dancefloor. As part of the chillwave vanguard making blurry, wistful electronic pop at the tail end of the ’00s, he wrote songs like “Blessa” and “Talamak” under the name Toro y Moi, staining slow-motion house party jams with young adult angst; even as he graduated to more cosmopolitan, mature songwriting with follow-up efforts Underneath the Pine and Anything in Return, his interest in danceable music lingered, and he refracted it through the prisms of funk (like on the winning “Still Sound”) and R&B. While his star continued to rise, he quietly released a handful of singles under the name Les Sins, pulling from the sounds of French touch and British bass music on songs like “Lina”. The humbly covered Michael is his first full-length as Les Sins, and it finds Bundick turning away from his thin, genial voice and natural melodic gifts, choosing instead to embrace rhythm and lean, shadowy beat construction.
Bundick has name-checked influences like German producer Danilo Plessow (who records deep house as Motor City Drum Ensemble) and Four Tet in interviews surrounding the release of Michael, and the similarities between their work and his are evident throughout the record. He likes to cobble beats together from a wide assortment of percussive samples, including fragments of his own familiar voice that have been chopped up and warped beyond recognition, and he’s more than willing to craft hooks and engaging passages using unconventional means and sounds. Opener “Talk About” and highlight “Bother” both hang on aggressive spoken samples, the former cribbed from Nas cut “One Love” and the latter delivered by Bundick himself; the skittering “Toy” is built around a spectral, cycling flute-ish melody that’s tonally incongruous given the menace of the rhythm that surrounds it. Choices like this grant the record a playfulness and lightness that serve to balance its darker, occasionally amelodic tendencies.
With that said, the best moments on Michael are the ones that hew closest to Bundick’s work as Toro y Moi, which remains his flagship project. If you imagine a spectrum anchored at either end by the sonic extremes Bundick has explored—perhaps a piece of lounging, bachelor pad pop like “How I Know” at one end, and the shocking, guttural assault of Michael’s “Call” on the other—it’s clear he does his best work somewhere near the middle. The irresistible “Why”, featuring vocalist Nate Salman, would slot in perfectly alongside dance-oriented Anything in Return highlights like “Harm in Change” and “Rose Quartz” if Bundick was singing it instead, and it’s the most memorable moment on Michael by a wide margin. A handful of songs scattered throughout the album’s back half succeed in large part because they embrace tones and textures that Bundick is clearly comfortable deploying, from the spacey synth line gliding through “Bellow” to the bold, bright piano melody that stars on closer “Do Right”. These tracks feel distinct and separate from his work as Toro y Moi, but without completely forgoing the skills and unique palette that makes those songs stand out. And although Michael is likely destined to end up a minor effort in Bundick’s expanding catalogue, his talent and radiant passion for new musical ideas and a wide breadth of sounds render the album a worthwhile effort for even casual listeners.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/10UaQf8