Toro y Moi – Mahal

Critiquing the digital sphere with intriguing, uplifting electronics...

A pioneer within chilled, laidback electronics, Toro y Moi presents his seventh studio album ‘Mahal’. Chaz Bear, the creative force behind Toro y Moi, takes the listener on an intimate journey across a range of genre and sounds, transgressing across ‘60s and ‘70s psychedelic rock to 90s post-rock, all whilst maintaining an inventive and original aesthetic intrinsic to his warm, technicolour sound.

Since the release of the electro-pop landmark ‘Causers Of This’ in 2009 and a subsequent prolific career, Toro y Moi has repeatedly pushed the boundaries of his unique sound and genre. Throughout his extensive career, Toro y Moi has pioneered a sound that, while feeling universal, colourful, and welcoming, remains inherently unique. He emulates an electro-pop sound, with themes of nostalgia, unrequited love, and the complexities of modern life.

While the subject matter is often heavy, the music comes in a dreamy, retro-pop sound, gift-wrapped in lo-fi, psychedelic aesthetics. ‘Mahal’, however, stands out amongst his releases, as a shift from a solely dance-tinged sound to a fuzzy, intimate, and unique project, cementing itself as one of his most eclectic and bold projects yet.

‘Mahal’ transports the listener to a sun-drenched landscape, riding passenger side with Chaz Bear in his Jeepney, experiencing a nostalgia as distinctly timeless riffs play through car speakers. Flitting between the psychedelic rock of The Loop, the latin and jazz influences with traditional Ethiopian sounds on Last Year, and the meaningful societal mediations of ‘Postman,’ the listener is bound to be gripped with a spirit of joy at the intersection of community and music. The project will showcase the difficulty in constricting an artist into a genre. By borrowing from a range of genres across decades, Chaz Bear is able to create something wholly unique that manages to entrench the listener in nostalgia.

Chaz Bear emphasises the role his identity has played in creating ‘Mahal’. His Filipino heritage, on his mum’s side, is carried throughout the project – particularly the Jeepney featured on the cover and the album title, stemming from a Filipino word for ‘love.’ In tying his magnum opus to his cultural identity, the listener is faced with an extremely intimate depiction of Toro y Moi, unlike any of his past creations.

Lyrically, ‘Mahal’ seeks to critique a digital age. Made across five years, it provides a subtle commentary on the decline of printed goods and material matter, and the rising materialism of a society grounded firmly in technology. For Chaz Bear, connections grow more disingenuous with the decline of sharing physical “things.” There is an innocence and authenticity in the act of sharing meaningful objects with another, whether that be letters, artefacts, or written notes. At its core, the physical exchange of sincere items is the most genuine act a person can do to express a connection. ‘Mahal', playing on themes of nostalgia and simpler-times, highlights the importance of meaningful relations, true to Chaz Bear’s common theme of baseline human connections.

Chaz Bear comments on this: “It’s interesting to see how we adapt to this new age. We’re so connected, but we’re still missing out on things.” Ironically, Toro y Moi – like so many of his peers – was largely born from the internet. The prospect of creating an album critiquing the very platform that gave way to his success is fascinating to say the least, and serves as a mediation of the way in which Toro y Moi has consistently expanded his own contrived genre.

It’s not all weighty and preachy introspection, however. The unclouded and golden-tinged album ends with tracks like 'Millennium', a guitar jam that seeks to celebrate the joy of new times in a changing world, seemingly turned upside down after a two-year pandemic and societal rifts. Bear explains that “it’s about enjoying the new year, even when it’s been shitty,” choosing to focus on a positive perspective on the future instead of rooting itself in gloom, unlike other post-quarantine projects attempting to capture the zeitgeist of a changing world.

Overall, the album is a tour-de-force bound to leave the listener nostalgic for warm, sunny times with an inherently groove-focused, genre-bending sound.


Words: Ruby Carter

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