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    Music journalism in the post-internet era seems to be playing catch-up with the Big Bang of Y2K implements like Napster and Bit-Torrent or Pandora and Spotify. We are all creating genres and sub-genres whilst comically struggling to classify endless newborn sonic galaxies from every bedroom, garage and basement studio in the expanding digital universe. Freak-folk, vapor-wave, neo-classical, electro-acoustic-dance-pop are all over-thought attempts to extricate such a wealth of artistry and individualism from beneath the “Indie Rock” umbrella. Even shortened, the much maligned “Indie” is the 21st century equivalent of the “Alternative” stigmata of the 90’s. This common practice of over-compensating for now antiquated classifications unequipped against the genre-bending music of today is little more than an exercise in self-awareness among listeners unlikely to recognize Sade, Curtis Mayfield, or even The Beatles. As evolution deteriorates restrictive labels of class, age and race, we live in an equally progressive time for music. But with such fervor to classify the amalgamation and deconstruction of over-stuffed containers labeled “Rock and Roll”, “R&B” and “Punk”, something gets lost.

    Chaz Bundick’s Toro Y Moi rose to the forefront of 2010’s “it” genre chillwave, drawing from a revival of hypnotic 80’s synth, organic R&B samples and ethereal vocal arrangements with artists like Washed Out, Stereolab and Caribou. On his debut album, "Causers of This," Bundick introduced himself as an accomplished producer capable of dreamlike atmospherics. 2011 identified his project as prolific and ambitious with "Underneath the Pine," a release that felt like the soundtrack to a never-ending summer. More focused than its predecessor, and easily one of the best records of that year, "Pine" was less a showcase of a talented producer’s influences than a recognized focus, extending its reach further beyond the boundaries of classification. The most notable signal of intent within that record, and subsequent releases "Anything in Return" and 2015's "What For?" was the backing of a full band. An approach revealing fleshed-out soundscapes more accurately described in terms of texture, temperature and emotion than the pigeonholes of yesteryear.

    At its best; Toro Y Moi reminds one of the color behind closed eyelids when lying in the sun. Is it orange? Pink? Yellow? Perhaps some post-millennium, hyphenated color? Someone at Crayola is no doubt working on that as you read this. But it’s this kind of reminiscent, introspectively evocative warmth, which makes the band’s sound so challenging to classify, yet inversely fitting as a soundtrack for nearly any occasion. It’s a sound which seems to fit perfectly with the polarizing imagery of Corona’s Christmas lights and Palm Trees.

    Saturday night’s Toro Y Moi show at Headliner’s was a reminder that within the ambitious and prolific nature of his sound, Bundick is, at his core, one hell of a producer. An energetic crowd, familiar with his entire body of work made easy the bond all performers must lust for. And Chaz obliged, sampling from each of his records, with confidently paced, deeply textured arrangements conducive to the kind of expressionistic dance moves perhaps more difficult to label than his sound. The audience was inspired to move accordingly, or shout observations into the ear of enthusiastic strangers at either shoulder. Bundick seems like that friend uncannily capable of DJing a party of any theme or motif. Obviously connected with his fans, each song seemed to start at the perfect moment.

    It’s a complicated time for such confident, exploratory artists such as Chaz Bundick, when the audience often seems more self-aware than the artists they perpetually focus ‘neath a microscope of self-validation. It wasn’t uncommon after the explosion and sprawl of this brave new mp3 world to catch an entire venue motionless, pockets full of fingers and palms (with room for little else), more attentive to the obsessed wardrobe irony of their peers than Animal Collective or Grimes onstage. But it’s the sound of which Toro Y Moi remains in constant pursuit, driven by the notion that it’s always just beyond his reach. Confident not only in the talents of himself and band mates, but aware that the perfect evening soundtrack is more about the feeling it evokes than the term by which it’s described. 

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    About Johnny Gutterman

    Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground. A Drop of Rain. The Doe Hoof and the Rabbit Paw. Just like you....... Louisville Born. Kentucky Proud writer/photographer. 1/2 of First Light Image Photography. www.firstlightimage.net

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