Whether he likes it or not, Chaz Bundick is at the head of the chillwave movement, his music as Toro Y Moi smooth, shiny, and groove-friendly. His new release, June 2009, collects ten cuts from the month of the title, some of the material coming from a time long ago, before even Bundick’s debut on Causers of This. The most notable differences between this peak into the past and the Toro Y Moi we’ve come to know are in the rough edges, the significantly lower fidelity production, and some unexpected instrumental changes, rather than any structural or thematic alteration.
In almost every instance, this sort of boxed 7″ set will only appeal to serious fans of the artist in question, and that’s no exception here. June 2009 plays out like a sketch of a very particular moment of time for Bundick, notably one that predates his maturity as an artist. This isn’t something to win over new fans, but to give background and deep-cuts to hardcore appreciators and completists.
Bundick doesn’t sound aimless on the collection, but he certainly doesn’t have the intense focus and technical wizardry that he’s come to rely on. The sultry synths and hushed vocals aren’t yet fully formed, instead sounding exactly like what these recordings were: a talented, excited musician developing his own personal voice and language. That’s where the experiments in acoustics fit in, and the reason for the lack of sheen on the production. These would seem to be test runs, trials that weren’t initially intended to be heard by a wide audience.
The opening track of the collection, “Best Around”, sets the tone that the rest of the songs follow. A hard-picked guitar opens the tune, sun-faded synths washed into the background. Bundick’s voice is just as fluid and light as on the newer material, but his falsetto backing vocals (a chorus of la’s) are wobbly and a little grating. His repeated line that “I don’t have anything to do” sounds just right in this brief, thready sketch of a pop song. “Take the L to Leave” follows, on the other hand, sounding more familiar. Built on synths and a disco-flavored beat, the funky bass line really steals the show, and the sampled chatting at the beginning sets an easy-going atmosphere. Much like the track before it, though, it ends upon arrival, and before it can find a semblance of the sugary peaks his later tracks rely on.
The heady bass groove and spacy electronics of “Drive South” get the dance floor ready, and Bundick’s cooing, wordless vocals over sections improve upon the redundantly punchy vocals in the verses. “Warm Frames” hits the other end of the spectrum, a toasty wash of synth-surf pop that doesn’t really grow or change very much, but it might be the most accessible track in the collection. But the quick-cut shifts don’t end there: Closer “New Loved Ones” even dabbles in acoustic guitar.
It almost seems unfair to judge a box set like June 2009, even against Bundick’s own catalog. Its intended audience is intensely narrow, it’s definitively not a greatest hits collection (or even an album with a single), and its origin is specifically a time when the artist hadn’t finalized his sound. That said, this is a must-buy for serious Toro Y Moi fans, and it offers an insight into the formative moment that most artists don’t want to share, but that’s about it.
Essential Tracks: “Warm Frames”, “Take The L To Leave”