Label: Dead Oceans
Released: 29th April 2022
Toro Y Moi has kept the chillwave torch going, albeit held at a distance. The sounds Chaz Bear peddles in now are a far cry from the light escapism of the nascent “online” genre that provided an escape from the 2008 economic crisis. As the shape of the internet has changed, so too has Chaz’s approach to music.
His latest, ‘Mahal’, sees him bringing together the carefree garage rock of Weezer with the woozy melancholia of Tame Impala and the funky baselines of something like Funkadelic. From ‘Goes By So Fast’, with its laidback lounge sax, to the spiralling psychedelia of ‘Deja Vu’, the tunes here have just as much body to them as on previous album ‘Outer Peace’ only now with more to dig into.
But ‘Mahal’, like its predecessors, is still all vibe. While Chaz is undeniably musically gifted, his songwriting still leaves something be desired. ‘Postman’, a song meant to be a reflection on the state of communication, sees its wobbly bassline doing most of the heavy lifting. “Just another bill / to pay”, he sings, lolloping his way through the words. And that’s about as much as it has to say.
‘The Loop’, too, features excellent production as he tries to keep ahead of the latest trends, “staying in the loop”. Both are perfect examples of solid themes that never quite take off: the base idea is the whole rather than something to expand upon.
‘Mahal’ is much like any other Toro Y Moi album. Strong, funky production, here elevated by a larger live accompaniment, let down by songwriting that feels a bit basic. His status as the uncontested Chillwave King clearly hasn’t hampered his musical abilities however, as he continues to endearingly experiment and push his sound further, building spaces that you can sink into or groove through.