Since his archetypal ‘chillwave’ debut back in 2011, Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi has released no fewer than 5 more albums, and Outer Peace is the latest to be added to a back catalogue that is ever-expanding in style as well as size.
Bundick cites artists as contrasting as Frank Ocean, J Dilla and Oneohtrix Point Never as his influences, and boy, can you hear it. Made available to stream in full on NPR back on January 10th, Outer Peace is a significant departure from the opaque, ambient-funk of 2017’s Boo Boo. In Bundwick’s own words, it: “references all the elements of what his music could sound like.”
A collection of ten tracks, none more than four minutes long, Outer Peace is a brisk, thirty minute whistle stop tour through a smattering of emblematic musical styles of the past decade or so — from the funky, bass-lead Thundercat-y soul of ‘Ordinary Pleasure’ and ‘Laws of the Universe’, to an FKA twigs-style crystalline vocal (delivered ethereally by ABRA) over a heavy double-time groove on ‘Miss Me’, and the Bon Iver/James Blake-esque autotune on ‘New House’.
This is as close to a dance record as Toro y Moi could get, and amongst the slower, sexy trap grooves, are some real bops. The opening track ‘Fading’ is a sparkly blend of disco high-hat and zapping synths, and the catchy marimba riff and reggaeton feel of the stand out ‘Baby Drive It Down’ is really quite addictive.
Whilst Boo Boo was a melancholic, occasionally wallowing portrait of break-up heartache, in Outer Peace Toro y Moi comments onto pics out with his inner most emotions. The first single and focal point of the album ‘Freelance’ is a skeptical comment on millennial burn-out culture, set to a dance beat so funky it could be straight out of a Daft Punk track.
“Technology is allowing people to become creative at home and become almost like entrepreneurs just from their desks,” Bundicktold NPR. “I felt like that’s who I really wanted to connect with [on this album] — the people that are grinding behind the computer in a creative way,” and Outer Peace certainly does allow for some serious boogie-at-your-desk grooves.
For all its mish-mash of different genres and sounds, it would be easy to call out this album’s lack of sonic cohesiveness as a drawback or a weakness. But this multifarious release isn’t necessarily a sign of Toro y Moi struggling to find an acoustic identity.
In the age of Discover Weeklys and whacking your entire music collection on ‘shuffle’, perhaps we can begin to move past holding up albums as the only truly serious works of ‘art’ in popular music. Perhaps we are living in the age of the song; the age of the playlist. Perhaps albums don’t all need to be a nice, neat, complete statements that make sense as one united ‘record’, á la symphony or painting.
There are no duds or ‘filler tracks’ on this kaleidoscopic LP of diverse and distinct songs; showing off Toro y Moi’s ever-mutating, chameleonistic sound. One element of Bundick’s music that has remained constant since his early chillwave days, through all of the styles he’s turned his hand to since, is a flawless quality of production.
All of the sounds on Outer Peace are fully realised and perfectly mixed, combining to form a spectrum of textures, timbres and grooves that are just as satisfying to listen to all in one go, in the ‘correct’ tracklisted order, as they are on their own or sandwiched by something else completely different that pops up on your shuffle.
Words, Kate Walker – kate_walker138