Toro Y Moi is just one of the creative aliases used by Chaz Budnick, a 23 year old South Carolina producer, multi-instrumentalist and aspiring film composer. Alongside contemporaries like Washed Out and Memory Tapes, Toro Y Moi’s 2010 debut was a sample heavy, lo-fi mixtape that began to define the budding genre of ‘chillwave.’ With Underneath The Pine, Budnick continues to explore the mix of funky soul, electro-pop and hip-hop that made Causers Of This so unique.
Released as the first single, “Still Sound” is Underneath The Pine‘s funkiest cut and it would have been nice if they had included another track or two with a similar energy. The song is the album’s most straight forward jam and a distillation of everything Chaz does well: bouncy bass lines, funky drums and a lackadaisical vocal delivery that pairs perfectly with washes of reverb and echo. Instead, the bulk of the album is more similar to “Got Blinded,” a psychedelic number that shares much more in common with Tame Impala or The Stone Roses than it does with J Dilla or Flying Lotus.
Instead of relying on samples like he did on Causers Of This, the use of live instruments gives Underneath The Pine a more focused, raw energy while still retaining the chill ambiance of the first record. The layers of instrumentation are really dense and it takes a few repeat listens to really pull everything apart and understand how meticulous Budnick’s production is. Even though it feels like Chaz sings more on this record, his vocals take a backseat to the instrumentation, especially the keyboards and the bass. His harmonies seem to float out of focus in the mix, in a style very reminiscent of Pet Sounds era Beach Boys. The comparison is most apparent on “Before I’m Done,” where even the piano and strings arrangement has a Brian Wilson vibe to it.
There are moments where Underneath The Pine calls back to the choppy samples and wobbly bass that defined the first album, but overall this is a much more organic and focused record. It’s exciting to hear Budnick outpace his peers and ignore the boundaries of a scene that he is credited with creating. This record a solid improvement over the excellent Causers Of This, and I am excited for his continued growth as an artist.