Monday, 25 November 2013

toro y moi 2013


                                                             PHOTOS  |  SYLVA TISHELMAN

October 26, 2013 - It all began with a monstrous, prolonged thunder clap of sound. Every instrument on the stage simultaneously exploded, going from silence to a dense mélange of chaotic noise. Those of us in the audience were almost physically blown backwards by the sudden wall of sound that was assaulting our ears. It continued for a nearly uncomfortable amount of time and just when many were probably starting to wonder what they had gotten themselves into, the blasts subsided and out of the aftermath emerged some clean, percussive synth chords that immediately changed our befuddlement to an irresistible dance craze. 

That’s one way to start a show.

Toro y Moi certainly came out with a banging statement in his show at Société des Arts Technologiques. It was a particularly brash opening declaration, too, given frontman Chaz Budnick’s calm, reserved demeanor. His flashiest trait is his healthy afro that doesn’t show up in his press photos. That night, he acted like an unassuming guy just going about his business. His music, however, possessed an electric (literal and emotional) energy that was undeniable and a depth that could have gone unnoticed. 

Toro y Moi’s sound was vintage and modern at the same time. Budnick, joined by a four piece band, borrowed grooves from 70s soul music while crafting spacey and sometimes hazy, modern soundscapes. The harmonies were seamlessly modal, complex, and accessible. Budnick’s voice, while almost nasally, is pure and soulful and it contributed to the originality of the music. 

In the early part of the show it was difficult to tell if all the songs would sound the same, and truth be told, many of them did. Most were nearly the same tempo, had some modal synth patterns and syncopated riffs, and were matched with Budnick’s airy, repetitive vocals. As the performance progressed, though, it was impossible not to be sucked into each composition. Any keen listener would have noticed the clever nuances of the music like an occasional dropout on a downbeat, a challenging synchronized riff, or some modal mixture thrown in. Any passive listener didn’t lose out, though, because that constant heavy groove was enough to keep the vibe flowing. 

All of Toro y Moi’s studio records were represented throughout the set. Some of the highlights were Never Matter with its punchy bass lines and syncopated synth hits and vocals, So Many Details, which is a neck-snapping slow groove, and the set ender (before the encore) Say That, all from Anything in Return (2013). The highlights from Underneath the Pine (2011) were Still Sound with its righteous bass groove that dominated the mix, and New Beat that has a chorus with an ascending instrumental riff and flowing vocals that would not escape one’s eardrums even hours after the show. Low Shoulders, from Causers of This (2010), had a bass and guitar riff that contributed to an astoundingly deep pocket. They could have jammed on that groove for hours before it got old. 

The show was a sonic feast for those who simply wanted to let go of themselves and fall into Budnick’s smooth but punchy, bouncy but relaxed groove cloud. It was also full of depth for those who wanted to aurally engage with the music. The compositional and musical arrangement nuances as well as the musicianship were all top notch. Toro y Moi has carved out a musical niche that sounds entirely original. Combine that with the ability to get a crowd full of hipsters to move their butts, and it’s clear Budnick has created a formidable musical force.  


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