Live Review: Toro y Moi

Leading the pack of buzzbands coming out of South by Southwest, Toro Y Moi has generated a buzz that won’t seem to dissipate. A critically-acclaimed leader of the chillwave movement, the band (founded and fronted by Chaz Bundick) released Causers of This to rave reviews toward the end of 2009, delighting music fans who enjoy Bundick’s alternative take on electronic rhythm and blues.

Just last month, Bundick delivered the follow up to Causers, Underneath the Pine, a decidedly more organic record. While Causers was the result of Budnick’s late-night bedroom recording sessions, Underneath the Pine is more of a full band record, as Bundick opted for live sounds and built the songs from the ground up with the help of other musicians.

After touring for the last year, Bundick and band have honed their musical chops, bringing the ultra-cool dance music of Causers to a place where they’re comfortable mixing up the sounds a bit. Last week, Toro Y Moi took the stage in Boston, playing the Brighton Music Hall on April 9. Playing an hour-long set, the group blasted through their most popular songs such as “Talamak,” “Still Sound” and “Low Shoulder” to the delight of a sold out crowd of almost 350 hipsters, electronic music fiends and casual listeners. It resembled a dance party for people who rarely listen to dance music.

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With songs off of Underneath, Toro Y Moi sounds as if they’re still figuring out arrangements and performance subtleties as they criss-cross the United States on their current tour. Underneath the Pine is richer and more expansive than its predecessor. It’s also notably smoother, which is a challenge to bring to life in a small club.

Songs like “New Beat” and “Elise,” while recognizable have been electrified for the live show. Surprisingly loud, the band behind Bundick remains close to the record while leaving marginal room for experimentation. While Bundick’s vocals have never been out in front of the music, live, they slipped back further behind the funky guitars, pounding bass and cornucopia of synth sounds.

A week before the Boston show, Bundick spoke with the Pembroke Mariner about his tour, Underneath the Pine and being apart from loved ones while on the road.

“Most of Underneath the Pine comes from, lyrically, trying to make relationships work when you’re on the road,” he said. “There’s a lot there about being away from home.”

“There was a finer life when I was with my friends/ And I could always see my family/ That’s what I still want now/ Even if I’m here and I know they won’t be waiting/ Cause I don’t want to be alone,” Bundick sings on “Still Sound.”

Like many of his songs, “Still Sound’ shows that Bundick wears his lyrical heart on his sleeve.

Musically, he said, most of his songs come from messing around with different sounds and finding his way as he progresses.

“The first (Causers of This) was a mostly electronic record I made on my laptop,” he said. “When it came to this one (Underneath the Pine) I wanted to find the best elements from my previous work and expand on that.”

While Causers of This was more ‘funky,’ Bundick says, he wanted Underneath the Pine to have a more live sound to it.

Bundick says he listened to legendary producers like Piero Umiliani and David Axlerod leading up to the recording of Underneath. “I was really inspired by their work and how much work they put into getting a certain sound,” he says. “With the new record a lot of it is working out better live and I think while I was working on the album I tried to keep that in mind, what it would sound like playing out.”

Although most of the songs on both of Toro Y Moi’s albums centers on the feeling of missing someone, Bundick says he loves touring the most.

“I just love the thought of making the trip, crossing the country to bring our music to people,” he says. “It’s amazing that I get to do this as a job.”

“Although it’s hard to be away from home I appreciate the position I’m in. Sometimes you just have to deal with being away from the people you love.”

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