Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bear (formerly Bundick) is a musician who refuses to be pigeonholed. Bear’s last five records have spanned various genres from deep house (2013’s Anything In Return) to classic 70s rock (2015’s What For?) with no apparent barriers coming between him and his creative voice. He’s also a real grafter, not only writing and self-producing his own records but also curating their visually striking artworks with his graphic design credentials.
Latest album Outer Peace singles another triumph for the adventurous musician’s eclectic manifesto. Silky funk rhythms are plonked alongside swooning synth melodies, underpinned by the reverb-drenched clap of tight RnB beats. Drawing influence from Daft Punk, French musician Wally Badrou’s innovative synth sound and trips to places like Mexico City and North Carolina, Bear has birthed genre-bending homecoming record that still manages to be fluid and extremely easy on the ears.
As well as having the effect of making you want to have a boogie in the kitchen alone, the album paints a bleak yet real picture of today’s throwaway culture, describing Bear’s disconnection with what we now all consider normal. “This record is a response to how disposable culture has become and how it affects creativity,” says Bear. “While listening, you might pay attention or ignore — either way that’s ok, this is music for a creative mind.” Tracks like ‘Ordinary Pleasure‘ take on the topic of increasing media-overload by addressing the lack of imagination involved in modern marketing culture, “Does sex even sell anymore/I feel like I’ve seen it all/maybe I’m just getting old/or maybe I’m just bored”. It’s an interesting response that makes you appreciate the record that bit more, by reflecting on the way we consume music like fast food, rather than taking the time to digest its various components.
Like his contemporaries, Neon Indian et al, Bear sees no limits to the hypnogogic pop textures of his music, incorporating retro sounds and loops into the tracks that become something much more than the sum of their parts. This is played out perfectly on playful number ‘Freelance‘, a Todd Terje-like Eurodance number, almost plasticised in its sheer bubblegum popness. ‘Laws of the Universe‘ is another where you can really tell Bear is having fun with his songwriting, “James Murphy is spinning at my house” he declares under possibly one of the funkiest riffs you’ll hear this year. It’s like Rick James Dj-ing at an indie disco.
Outer Peace is a feat of modern pop music that Toro Y Moi should be incredibly happy with. It brings together what could easily be – if crafted by the wrong hands – disparate musical elements, and combines them to make something playful, intriguing and unusually intellectual.
Outer Peace is released on 18th January through Carpark Records.