In the early parts of 2010, Toro Y Moi’s Chazwick Bundick highlighted the chillwave movement with his stellar debut, Causers of This. After a strong summer progression in 2009, the South Carolina-born graphic designer was able to amass the many proponents of chillwave onto a stunning set of music. Subtle and subdued, songs like “You Hid” were gentle electronic flashes of life that were perfect in any kind of setting: driving home from work, unwinding after the long day’s work or even, preparing for the daily grind. And songs like “Minors” proved that there was a genuine versatility that Bundick possessed and a true talent to be reckoned with.
Now, wasting very little time, Bundick returns with Underneath the Pine, a new album of assorted styles and tricks. While Bundick does his best at staying true to the chillwave genre that birthed many new fans, he is able and proficient in conveying a far wider range of styles with his second album. “Good Hold” serves as the album’s penultimate gem with a menacing piano line and Bundick’s muffled vocals. Although the song mirrors a minor melody through its dissonance, the highlight comes when Bundick inverts the sounds into a cloudy and stifled effect; small, yes but rather significant when taking in the kind of artist that Bundick is. It’s on Underneath the Pine that one realizes the apt musician behind Toro Y Moi and if Bundick intends to continue releasing albums of this caliber every year, it will always be welcome.
While the music on Causers of This left many memorable moments fresh in our minds, Bundick displays a worthy amount of diversity with Underneath the Pine’s sweeping songs. “Got Blinded” features a soaring chorus behind the driving support of a steady piano line and a guitar that always enables the singer to go further. Bundick’s arrangements still maintain the dreamy capability that allows for his music to be compared to Grizzly Bear and Beach House but this time, songs like “Before I’m Done” showcase a wide depth of skill behind Bundick’s arsenal. The latter, sounding like something out of Bibio’s play-book, still fortifies the ‘old sound’ we’ve all come to love from Toro Y Moi while still focusing on a winning melody and atmospherics. There’s always reason to rejoice anyone that tries to go for some growth and advancement between albums and Bundick has accomplished just that.
So in many ways, it’s almost fitting for the album to begin with the mist and glaze of “Intro/Chi Chi” – as it travels from a keyboard-tinkled line to a bumping, low-driven beat – because it impressively places the spotlight on Bundick and his mastery of transitions and segues. Everything on a Toro Y Moi album is meant to be easily digested and more so, fluently taken in and Bundick is in top form. Even as he gets lost in Stevie Wonder/Michael Jackson territory with the first ‘official’ song, on “New Beat” (a title that is a little more than blunt), Bundick fashions it with his timely trademarks: smooth, carefree and entirely engrossing. And on “Divina,” Bundick delivers one of his finest songs with a gorgeous piano-melody and harmonics that recall the aforementioned Grizzly Bear with their poignant touch.
Now, in the early parts of 2011, Bundick is again continuing to wave the flag of chillwave brighter than most others. He’s been able to continue on his path without compromising his talents or ability and with Underneath the Pine, this is now two outstanding albums in the span of just as many years. It’s a worthy accomplishment – a downright remarkable one to be honest – it’s not only a welcome change of pace but it’s absolutely welcoming, in every aspect of the word.