Credit where credit is due and Chaz Bundick earns his by leaving us flabbergasted to what he will do.
His interests are blistering—percolating on the thermometer’s edge—he rushes, thrushes, brushes past electric cool jazz, lo-fi rock, DIY funk and now nu-disco in torrid pace. But listen to any Toro y Moi predecessor to Outer Peace and the melodies would never strike the anvil hot, but instead water it down, down, downtempo. Neither too does this make the material solid; he puts the Hg in Mercury, producing an ever changing chillwave that conforms to the container he desires as if elemental, as if he is right in the petri dish and alchemists are left scratching their heads. On Outer Peace, Toro y Moi shifts quick—it’s not so much a record as a thirty minute DJ set—nothing makes it past four minutes, everything ephemeral, a slinking sleuthing swirling spinning series of singles that lock together like a jigsaw puzzle yet flow like a stutter-step butterfly flight. Nervous but happy, neurotic but beautiful, replete with fluttering, fleeting moments.
Like the wow-wow Owen Wilson synthesizers on “Laws of the Universe” which recalls for a fun tropical house, a hammed up eighties production crossing Wham’s “Club Tropicana” by Mr. Fingerisms from all angles. Or like the space flute synthesizer kazoo solo on “Freelance” which provides a great harmonic companion to Bundick’s vocoder vocal effect and adds a counterpoint to the boot-and-cats, boom-and-snap beat fills to tick-tock the track—with a little autocorrecting double click—all while interpolating Ugly Casanova’s “Hotcha Girls” into disco-step club territory. Or like WET’s feature on “Monte Carlo” which qualifies the track for best low-and-slow simmer cut, an experiment in chemical dvsn and an attempt to subtract those clothes via melancholia. It’s the ephemeral epitome of the records fleeting run time and is quickly missed, but between you and me most slow tracks need a shorter runtime by rule of thumb lest they drag on by all ten fingers, pulling hair-and-nails. So, when that glowing keyboard melody just disappears, the ears do naught but grow fonder.
And amid this relatively convenient house music, Chaz Bear still finds time to philosophize between the sheeny production, dictating dichotomies on curated image-building before shrugging off the Instagram moments for some actual substance, singing “Who cares about the party?/ I came to see the band play” on “Who I Am” or erring “er-er-ah-ah-oh-kay” vocalizations that mimic the stammering bassline on “Freelance” and bring the whole cut to an awkward satisfaction, flipping the table under cheap rapping tricks like the overpriced knick-knacks that they are. Where some cite Versace, Chaz Bear goes incognito:
“Cloud hidden and my whereabouts unknown
Cazadero got me wearing all camo
Decked in Patagonia, head to toe”
-“Who I Am”
But you gotta listen quick because the record revolves and resolves fast, fast and faster than most—so fast you might think it’s a 78 going at 236 BPM. The experience is fleeting as the record’s namesake (Outer Peace) and leading single (“Ordinary Pleasure”). An efficacy that may strike as soulless if Bundick weren’t so damn good with that bass and those samples. He extracts every ounce of pleasure possible and then sells it by the pound. The instrumentation is a crossfire section of house tropes and nu-disco kitsch; a sort of hodgpodge approach; a plethora of cowbells, güiros, congas and xylophones gathered and sampled from an elementary-school music room and then evoked in downtempo electronica. It’s hit or miss depending on the cut, mostly foundering in the middle. Yet without fail, the bass is always there, a guttural, low growl, evermore hungry for high-register flourishes and paired with a guest star, light-and-cheeky chuck guitar. In the end the rhythm sections just comes up like chillwave Chic, a transitive influence from the surreal Daft Punk style of this record, and the LP is saved by Bundick’s ability to back-up the fresh with the vintage.
Further, there are only two enduring moods in a house record: happy and hopping or sad and swaying. Bundick does manage to mix in some sombriety but it still sways. It’s the lyricism which actually covers the most personal-philosophical ground. Otherwise, the moods are cut and dry and fully immersed in the musicality. Thus, if nothing else, this record should cement Bundick’s reputation as a producer. It’s just an absolute masterclass in lesson on how to make smart-efficient-innocuous dance records with basic world instruments. It’s similar in ambition to dvsn’s Morning After but with a tad more soul and a little less rap-and-beats. The lyricism is still hip-hop-like, but not trying so hard as to emulate that hip hotline bling from Toronto. And so too does this alternative dance and synthy R&B rarely (unless your name is Nicolas Jaar) attempt to wax with weight the philosophical. Bundick largely steers clear of that but still does find moments to insert pointed statements amid the seductive stanzas.
The short long-player does fall into some pitfalls, riding some moods too hard in the middle section of ten-feet deep cuts before relaxing back into that hips-deep and easy charm it opens up with. But at beginning and end the record gets it done—the only real stone cold disappointment is “50-50” which leaves Outer Peace on such a down-mood that you’ll want to restart the record just to get up with “Fading” again. The Mulder in me wants to believe the conspiracy—maybe it’s supposed to do that so you’ll never change the record (Oh. My. God.)—but in reality it’s just a harsh come down on the sine-wave rhythm. Still, flipping the record wouldn’t hurt. It’s a tried and true case of so nice, you gotta play it twice.
Album Artist: Toro y Moi aka Chaz Bundick aka Chaz Bear
Genre: Alternative R&B, Chillwave
“Laws of the Universe”
“Miss Me (feat. ABRA)”
“Baby Drive It Down”
“Who I Am”
“Monte Carlo (feat. WET)
“50-50 (feat. Instupendo)”