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Toro y Moi’s ‘Outer Peace’ is full of post-chill-wave grooves

| Thursday, February 14, 2019

Lina Domenella | The Observer

When Chaz Bear, better known as Toro y Moi, released his first album, “Causers of This,” in 2010, he became the designated torch bearer for the burgeoning chill-wave movement. Though that sound and aesthetic has started to fade from the mainstream, the Berkeley-based musician is still releasing some of the more inspired music of his career. “I’m very thankful to be looped into chill-wave,” Bear explained in a December interview with Complex. “I see how, too — but I don’t relate to the genre too much. I’m glad it took off and did its thing.” On Bear’s 2017 album, “Boo Boo,” instrumental filler tracks like “Pavement” and “Don’t Try” reflected chill-wave’s ongoing function as a safety net for Bear. Clocking in at a tight 30 minutes, Toro y Moi’s latest album, “Outer Peace,” explores funkier and disco-inspired sounds that signal a progression from his more chill-wave past.

The first few tracks on “Outer Peace” focus on pulsating bass-lines, dance sounds and infectious melodies. On “Ordinary Pleasure,” head-bobbing bass and conga patterns frame the song, anchoring the catchy hook: “Maximize all the pleasure, even with all this weather / Nothing can make it better, maximize all the pleasure.” Bear has cited the French group Daft Punk as one of his largest influences, and the fingerprints of their LP “Random Access Memories” are all over this project,

Although the bubbly, bass-line-infused production shines on “Outer Peace,” the lyrics still explore deeper themes seen on previous projects. On “Who I Am,” Bear juxtaposes airy, house-inspired production with introspective lyrics. Laid-back party music is definitely present on this album, though a look at Bear’s lyrics find him clearly trying to search for resolution to some type of inner turmoil. “50-50,” the album’s last track, opens with a vocal sample that not only introduces the track, but Chaz Bear himself. When we hear “Hello, my name is Chaz,” it seems like the end of his struggle with self-identity is near.

On “Outer Peace,” Bear incorporates elements of modern hip-hop, dance and disco into his previously defined chill-wave aesthetic, as seen on tracks like “Monte Carlo” and “50-50.” This infusion is successful more often than not. Bear’s auto-tuned crooning of “1987 Monte Carlo” on “Monte Carlo” is incredibly atmospheric, and the piano-trap mashup seen on “50-50” is characteristic of the moody state of current hip-hop. The album also contains lyrical moments on these tracks that, in contrast, feel particularly empty. On “Monte Carlo,” he justifies driving his 1987 Monte Carlo by citing his fear of Uber and taking the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit).

The album, although full of successful moments, is disjointed at times and doesn’t necessarily have a central genre. “Outer Peace” varies from the aforementioned dance and hip hop sounds to soulful, vocal-centric tracks like “Miss Me.” Ultimately, this does not matter; the different genres and moods explored on this album are an expression of the different moods and personalities Bear explores and grapples with. Even with these issues, “Outer Peace” is a step in the right direction for Toro y Moi. It’s a creative, bubbly fun listen. 

Artist: Toro y Moi

Album: “Outer Peace”

Label: Carpark Records

Favorite Tracks: “Ordinary Pleasures,” “Freelance,” “Monte Carlo”

If you like: Flying Lotus, Moses Sumney, Daft Punk

Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5

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