Toro y Moi – Freaking Out EP review

Toro y Moi is the stage name of Columbia, SC native Chaz Bundick. Since 2001 he’s been recording on his own, but he remained dormant until last year’s Causers of This. The album was dense in sound, overwhelmed by low-end, but dreamy in content, and, like the material of a dream, it slipped away once the record ended. February 2011’s Underneath the Pine found Toro heading in a new direction, complementing his synths with actual drums and guitars; making the music’s dreaminess its focus and not its flaw; and incorporating beautiful, dark chords like you might find in Al Green. It was an interesting and enjoyable record from start to finish, with unusual textures, pleasantly surprising chords, and memorable melodies.

On the success of those two albums and their singles, Toro did some touring, performing for more people than ever before. In a recent video interview with Pitchfork, he said that he had been feeling like doing more upbeat, danceable music, the implication being that he wasn’t happy with his previous relationship with his audience. A lot of times the difference between a concert and a recital (at least in the minds of the performers) lies in the reaction of the crowd. This is especially true of music like Toro y Moi’s, which would require concentration to pull off live and contains limited room for improvisation.

The music off Toro’s new EP, Freaking Out, which came out earlier this September, is sure to suit casual music fans both at concerts and on the dance floor. He’s playing it safe this time around. The music is complex, especially in the rhythm section, but it’s unambitious and, more problematically, unexpressive. In context the EP is interesting–it’s a synthesis of his debut’s electronics and its follow-up’s grooves and dark chords–but considered on its own it’s just okay. The songs are catchy but indistinguishable from one another. Sometimes the music is too busy for its own good.

On Freaking Out, Toro is working solely for his audience, playing the part of the entertainer. EPs are slight by design, so I’m not freaking out, but I hope this is just a one-time, self-consciously conventional excursion from an unconventional musician. People looking for an introduction should check out Underneath the Pine.

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