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Monday, May 23, 2022

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Arts + CultureMusic5 times Toro Y Moi shuffled the vibe in...

5 times Toro Y Moi shuffled the vibe in a better direction

Before the Bay Area star's latest musical transformation drops, we look back at some of his chill and funky highlights.

The ongoing musical trajectory of Chaz Bear aka Toro Y Moi started in the aughts with “chillwave” and continues to unfold without pause. He’s an original, swapping out atonal harmonics on the guitar for digital electronic music resonance. This bi-racial human (both Filipino and African American) and Bay Area luminary—Berkeley named June 27 “Chaz Bundick Day” in honor of Toro Y Moi’s contribution to arts and music in 2017—is an artist in both the visual and musical sense.

Popular reception, as in download numbers, Spotify streams, and Grammy nominations, never dissuade shim from his vision. Complacency breeds ennui.

Electronic music, twee funk, slippery R&B, indie-rock: Calling him Prince-adjacent would not be fiction. You have no freaking idea what is coming next with this guy. But you can bet, it’s always dissimilar to the previous. Keeping things interesting has led him to release a mixtape, record a live concert from the desert, and collaborate with the Mattson 2 for a jazz combo. 

It’s an unrelenting and fearless run that shows no signs of Vanilla type “meh” on the horizon.

This Oakland-based musician drops MAHAL (which translates to “love” or “expensive” in Tagalog), his seventh studio album as Toro Y Moi, at the end of this month. It’s rumored to crack yet another can of oddball frequencies—psyche-rock meets Stereolab surrealism—that’s a pure Chaz fit.

The first couple of visuals, released in advance of the album, carry a certain cache. Chaz Bear is all about owning his heavily inspired ’70s bag. Flexing and grinning in those Jamariquoi-type hats—you know the ones—while walking down the Marin Headlands staircases, cruising through Chinatown, posting up in front of the Grant and Green market in North Beach. But then a brief segment in “Postman” goes to shiny-sheeny illustrated mode, before returning to the foggy real-life Bay vistas.  

As he explained to Blackbird Spyplane in March, there was a plan in mind. “I had to make this very ’70s-sounding record in the era of hyper pop, the era of future-future-future, so it was like, ‘How do you find the cool if guitars aren’t cool? How do I make an album that shows I’m aware and not just a retro kid?'”

It’s not the first time he’s zagged out at all costs.

“I’m sort of getting tired of doing R&B and funk,” Bundick told Rolling Stone in 2013. “I don’t like to do what’s popular. If electronic music is popular, I don’t want to do that kind of music. I mean, I’m constantly making electronic music, but I’m not going to release it.”

Listen, I missed the entire chillwave phase of Chaz Bear, and it’s an important one. Not just for his career, but for a new generation of artists who came to the surface gaining cultural recognition. But my fave era remains 2015’s What For? 

It was a shuffling of the vibes for sure, inserting guitars after the whole chillwave explosion. Chaz Bear strapped on that indie-rock conviction, locking in with guitar-driven chic, especially on “Half Dome.” 


As my man, Stephen A. Smith would say, it was a grown man move.

So let’s check out some other cool moments from the all gas no brakes career of Chaz Bear:

Toro y Moi, “Ordinary Guy” (feat. The Mattson 2)

Joe Bataan, the Latin soul musician, was born in 1942 to a Filippino dad and African American mother in Spanish Harlem, New York City. Bataan was influenced by two musical styles: the Latin boogaloo and African American doo-wop. His characteristic blending of the two by way of soul, funk, and jazz has been an inspiration to everyone who loves feel-good music. 

“Ordinary Guy,” a staple in his career and live show, is a poignant and beautiful ode to the way he carries himself in the world.

To see and hear Toro y Moi cover this all-time standard—Bataan recorded four different versions of it—with such underscored tact, at San Francisco’s Women’s Audio Mission Studio no less, remains a stand-out moment in an already special career.

“Déjà Vu” from MAHAL(Dead Oceans)

“Déjà Vu,” the latest release from his forthcoming studio album, Mahal, arrives with guitar solos played backward on tape. A real crunchy, funky rock-type of swag, complimented by wunderkind outfits that look driptastic. It’s a modishness that befits a spacewalker vibe.

Say That” from Anything In Return (CarPark Records)

A buddy of mine, a serious beatmaker, and musician actually, told me way back in the day he ran into Chaz Bear while running a half-marathon. “Say That,” with its “‘peek-a-boo look-at-me half-ass hiding in nature’s green,” makes me believe the great outdoors is a part of old Chaz Bear’s overall get down. This cool track and quirky video from 2013 had the “purple pants people” all in a fit, for sure. Getcha Redwood on Son!

Ordinary Pleasure” from Outer Peace(Carpark Records)

Toro Y Moi‘s Outer Peace album from 2019, is slithery, glowed-up pop with a capital P. 

“Ordinary Pleasure,” one of his most casual grooves and laissez-faire bops, allows us to see into his Company studios in Oakland and meet the band, including Brijean on percussion. It’s a vibe and she kicks it off.

MAHAL comes out April 29. Preorder here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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