Arriving out of a personality crisis and a sudden appreciation of space, Chaz Bundick’s seventh Toro y Moi album is a record where its creator bestows as much importance on the silences as the melodic gestures that have become a staple feature of his music. Bundick’s synth-driven songs always carried a downbeat, introspective quality filled with wistful recollections of a personal history that had slipped just out of reach, but, in a very deliberate way, the ideas on ‘Boo Boo’ are given greater much greater room in which to breathe and grow.
Highlights like ‘No Show’, ‘Don't Try’ or ‘Labyrinth’ carry a sort of sentimentality and sensuality that ties these moments to a uniquely 1980s vision of R&B; music laced with languid bass motifs and achingly emotive, shiny melodies, over which Bundick delivers a soulfulness that has been largely hidden up to now. The more urgent ‘Mona Lisa’ has a Metronomy/NZCA Lines quality that nods to funkier, house-derived concerns, while across the whole album there's a sense of imperfectness, a casual wonkiness in the rhythms or the tuning of some of the synth sounds, especially on the instrumental elevator muzak interlude of ‘Embarcadero’.
One of Chaz Bundick’s favourite sleights of hand is making music that sounds utterly of its time while simultaneously reaching back into what came a generation or two before. It's that quality that makes the lightly-Autotuned ‘Windows’ or ‘Girl Like You’ sound like something a producer might offer to Justin Bieber, while the arrangements have a fuzzy, reverb-drenched sound that gives it the effect of having been dimly recalled from the background of a scene in a movie you forgot you even watched.
All of this means that, in spite of the anguished self-interrogation that went into its making, this still sounds exactly how a Toro y Moi album should sound. However, ‘Boo Boo’ feels like what we might call a coming-of-age album, the theme of which is that, despite all our best endeavours, life isn't always perfect; we all get older; love is all too frequently unrequited; achieving true happiness takes effort; we all make decisions that we might live to regret; disappointment is a natural, if uncomfortable, consequence of a life well lived.
"What is wrong with this world? It's got me thinking too much," sings a bewildered and very possibly overwhelmed Chaz Bundick in the final moments of this fine record, closing out a soul-bearing and highly cathartic therapy session for both the artist and his listeners.
Words: Mat Smith / @mjasmith
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