Soft-spoken Chaz Bundick (aka Toro Y Moi) has kept his bearings since his hazy, synth-driven bedroom-breakout “Causers of This” put him on the map in 2010. While his splash put him into the chillwave scene that also included other newbies like Washed Out and Neon Indian, inspirational (and operational) changes came soon for the South Carolina native. His 2011 follow-up “Underneath the Pine” saw him incorporate more live instruments and a band into his idiosyncratic laptop creations, spanning genres as wide as R&B, hip-hop, indie rock and ‘60s pop.
“Anything in Return” continues the evolution of Toro Y Moi’s sound by adding in deep disc-digging doses of down-tempo R&B, ambient hip-hip, underground disco and ’90s diva house to the mix. At times it mirrors the retro lo-fi charm of its predecessors, but predominately it is the most polished, well-produced and eccentric work in his brief catalog.
“I was really trying to mess around with that Top 40 sound to see if I could come close to what they do, even just as an experiment,” says Bundick, who plays all the music and sings vocals on his records. “As long as I can keep my head on, it’s OK.”
“Anything In Return” plays out like a heavily textured, almost claustrophobic house mix of Bundick’s current favorite sounds. Where some tracks such as “Harm in Change” keep the layers heavy, others such as “Touch” bring it down to just a few mellow tones and the cricket-like chirp of a drum machine. Lost mostly in the mix is Bundick’s own voice, which quietly coexists with the soulful samples (mostly ultra-short clips of female singers) that he drops on numerous tracks. “She knows I work hard,” he sings on “Cake”— alluding to what he calls the album’s central theme: being away from loved ones for the first time. “Anything” might not be Toro Y Moi’s most accessible work, but fans seeking new explorations won’t be disappointed.
At times, the multiple layers of keys and percussion make Toro Y Moi’s music hard to pull off live — so much so that Bundick jokes about sounding “like a cover band” of his own music. But he says trying to use a broad spectrum of instruments live and especially in the studio is something he wouldn’t turn back on.
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“When I listen to ‘Causers of This,’ all I hear is laptops. God, I wish those were real keys. But that’s in the past and not really worth regretting.”