Toro Y Moi
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Toro Y Moi
The product of a move from South Carolina to Berkeley, CA and the subsequent extended separation from loved ones, Toro Y Moi’s third full-length, Anything in Return, puts Chaz Bundick right in the middle of the producer/songwriter dichotomy that his first two albums established. There’s a pervasive sense of peace with his tendency to dabble in both sides of the modern music-making spectrum, and he sounds comfortable engaging in intuitive pop production and putting forth the impression of unmediated id. The producer’s hand is prominent—not least in the sampled “yeah”s and “uh”s that give the album a hip-hop-indebted confidence—and many of the songs feature the 4/4 beats and deftly employed effects usually associated with house music. Tracks like “High Living” and “Day One” show a considerably Californian influence, their languid funk redolent of a West Coast temperament, and elsewhere—not least on lead single, “So Many Details”—the record plays with darker atmospheres than we’re used to hearing from Toro Y Moi. Sounding quite assured in what some may call this songwriter’s return to producerhood, Anything in Return is Bundick uninhibited by issues of genre, an album that feels like the artist’s essence.
Born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina, Chaz Bundick has been toying with various musical projects since early adolescence. Having spent his formative years playing in punk and indie rock acts, his protean Toro Y Moi project has been his vessel for further musical exploration since 2001. During his time spent studying graphic design at the University of South Carolina, Chaz became increasingly focused on his solo work, incorporating electronics and allowing a wider range of influences—French house, Brian Wilson’s pop, 80s R&B, and Stones Throw hip hop—to show up in his music. By the time he graduated in spring 2009, Chaz had refined his sound to something all his own, and music journals across the board touted his hazy recordings as the sound of the summer, and he released his debut album, Causers of This in early 2010.
Since then, Bundick has proven himself to be not just a prolific musician, but a diverse one as well, letting each successive release broaden the scope of the Toro Y Moi oeuvre. The funky psych-pop of 2011’s Underneath the Pine evinced an artist who could create similar atmospheres even without the aid of source material and drum machines. His Freaking Out EP, a handful of singles and remixes, and a retrospective box-set plot points all along the producer/songwriter spectrum in which he’s worked since his debut, and Anything In Return is another exciting offering that shows he’s still not ready to settle into any one genre.
Music comes naturally to L.A. duo Classixx, childhood friends who began recording together in 2007, united by their mutual appreciation for shimmering melody, punk rock, disco and French house. When Classixx DJ, they do so with exceptional comprehension, a clear affinity for the music they play. There’s a kinship between the songs they select and their own original works, at once beaming, breezy and wistful, descendent from similarly pop-minded melancholics like Fleetwood Mac, Prince, and Alan Braxe.
Now one of the world’s most universally respected DJ duos, Classixx have headlined everywhere from the famed Paris Social Club to New York’s Webster Hall, touring constantly since releasing their exuberant 2009 single “I’ll Get You,” which featured Lady Gaga songwriter Jeppe. Following their breakout single with acclaimed remixes for Phoenix, Holy Ghost, Mayer Hawthorne, Groove Armada, Yacht, Major Lazer, Gossip and others, for the last two years Classixx have been intent on their debut Hanging Gardens, whittling the LP down from hundreds of sessions to a svelte 12 songs.
Their musical background is substantial. Michael David fronted a major label-signed rock band in high school, and he and one-time Berklee School of Music student Tyler Blake play a wide array of instruments on Hanging Gardens.
“It’s a very gear-heavy record. We pretty much played everything in here on it,” Tyler says, surveying their Venice beach studio, a cottage which houses six or seven guitars, a piano, various analog synths and a drum kit. One of their favorites is an indigenous Central American drum with a fuzzy hot pink mallet, which was used frequently throughout the album. “We used a lot of Prophet ‘08, Voyager, Juno-106, a lot of [Yamaha] DX-7, the Vermona drum synth, we have a LinnDrum, a [Yamaha] CP70, which is a famous stage piano,” Mike adds. “Tyler’s dad has an old American Fender Telecaster that was played a lot, and then my old man, that’s his Ibanez Stratocaster.”
The album begins with nostalgic title track “Hanging Gardens,” a reference to the Seven Wonders of the World, one of which was the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The opening song’s reverie continues on haunting collaborations with Active Child on “Long Lost,” Superhumanoids singer Sarah Chernoff on the ethereal “A Stranger Love,” and the coastal, dreamy “A Fax From the Beach.” Hanging Gardens concludes poetically with “Valley Vacation,” a reference to their late-night escape from their old studio, nestled in the seedy heart of L.A.’s porn industry, to their current Venice beach sanctuary.
If the quieter moments of the album are inspired by the beach, then the upbeat tracks are clearly primed for the dance floor, from churning slapper “Relight My Fire” and gleefully catchy Nancy Whang-featuring “All You’re Waiting For,” to the French Touch-inspired anthem “Holding On” sublime chords of “Dominoes” and grooving bass and live drums of “Supernature.”
Classixx excel at cutting impossibly sunny grooves, blithe melodies bred by the coast, coaxed out by the surf, expertly crafted for road trips, pool parties and dance clubs.
“I really think this is a product of the Los Angeles experience,” Mike says. “Which is also part of the reason we called it Hanging Gardens. For some reason that image just reminds me of Los Angeles.” “I feel like most people would agree that it sounds like California,” Tyler concurs. “When we’re working on a song and I look out the window it just seems like the soundtrack of this city. This beach.”