If Toro Y Moi, aka Chaz Bundick, has done anything in his three-yearrecording career he’s skilfully constructed an intriguing andenigmatic persona. Conflict and confusion reign: his stage nametranslates to “The Bull and Me”, a nonsense half Spanish, half Frenchcollision; his album artwork, normally key in personifying an artist,covers everything from landscaped angular minimalism in pastel toneson debut Causers Of This to a disquieting, lurid underwater buffet,last year’s Underneath the Pine LP finding him snacking on a seaanemone on the cover.
He’s similarly difficult to get the measure ofon record. A submarine churn and drone was fused with clean, dancedriven grooves on his last record, one typical of his restless andinquisitive musical explorations. The nostalgically titled June 2009comes on the heels of the funk referencing Freaking Out EP that reworked,of all things, Saturday Love by Alexander O’Neal.
Curiously for a prolific forward thinker, June 2009 is a retrospectivework, a collection of early material previously available as atour-only purchase. Fixing his music in a time so firmly via the titlecould well be a nose-thumbing to being lumped in with the lazilyconstructed chillwave movement alongside acts like Neon Indianand Washed Out. Bundick has, after all, said it amounted tolittle more than the coincidence of a few broadly similar acts comingto prominence at a broadly similar time. The label was certainlyunfairly restrictive, so what better way to wriggle free from it thanto lay his sound’s genesis bare?
June 2009 indeed acts well as a musical postcard, ruthlesslydemonstrating the elusive qualities of an artist whose default settinghas always been enigmatic. As a result, as many will find itcompelling as others will maddening. It’s the sound of someone findingtheir way in the only way they know – using music to gain perspectiveand understanding of the world around them. Lyrically it’s universallystraightforward – Take the L to Leave bemoans abandoning a home cityand comfortable relationship to move to New York for career’s sake,whilst Ektelon evokes aimless, idealised American summers spentswimming and eating in diners.
Bundick’s identity is, however, beingfermented musically and, as such, genre elements can be ticked offthick and fast: the Pavement-aping indie of Dead Pontoon, theM83-esque electro-aggressive wall of sound of Sad Sams, the(with apologies) chillwave of Warm Frames and even an acoustic, folksyballad in New Loved Ones. Its unifying trait is a clumsy, breathlessnaivety – one hazily recorded to boot – and ideas are rarely expandedupon; grooves unceremoniously ushered out the back door just as theyhad been invited in and begun to settle.
There’s a plan though. Bundick is engaging in headstrong leftfieldexploration in the best tradition, undertaking it with the view toarriving at something fulfilling and new, a feat few would begrudgehim now. Along with many ideas here, that Talamak – Original Versionresurfaces on first album Causers of This shows that the soaking up ofinfluences from across the musical spectrum isn’t simply toying withgenre to no end. Bundick also demonstrates he’s a canny operator evenin the infancy of his career, deconstructing himself and parsing hismercurial qualities perfectly – the liquid funk of Drive South issystematically drowned and pulled apart just as it’sestablished.
At its best, June 2009 feels like a fuzzy, readymade memory. Yet,problematically, there’s the paradox that whilst proceedings areworthy, they’re too anaemic for wider public consumption – over halfof the songs are under three minutes, most well under. Combined with itsoff-kilter delivery, the chillwave doubters certainly won’t beencouraged to give it time, or even a chance. Despite its releasecementing Bundick’s mystique, and its knockabout charm and ramshacklerestlessness having no little depth, June 2009 was probably punchingits weight as a niche fan curio where it could be treasured assuch.