Chaz Bundick, best known for his chillwave exploits as Toro y Moi, looked toward graphic designer P. Rand for inspiration leading into the two-year creation process of his debut full-length as Les Sins, Michael. Although his success under the Toro Y Moi moniker was fueled by artistic innovation and eclectic genre-blurring explorations of soul and R&B, the direction, pulled from a Rand quote, is much less profound: “Don’t try to be original, just try to be good.” The results are just that — good. But would Bundick have ever settled on such mediocrity if not so singularly focused on the dance floor?
Clubland in 2014 certainly isn’t lacking good producers; anyone with a Mac and some sampler packs can cut up a decent banger in an afternoon. So, while the booty bass of “Bother”, juxtaposition of beauty-meets-breaks pulling at “Call”, and the emotive dark electro beguiling “Minato” offer guidance into the dank underground of electronica, Bundick fails to ever develop his own fingerprint. To outsiders of the dance community, the work of Crew Love or Toolroom might all sound like the same four-on-the-floor repetition, but it’s the subtle nuances of the various beatsmiths that keep them in demand from San Francisco and New York to Berlin and Ibiza. It’s true that Bundick might not have the same access to crowds as these DJs and producers to work new techniques; however, his abilities as a storyteller remain relatively unchallenged, an attribute that is almost wholly absent from the album’s 11 tracks.
At moments, one senses an earnest open response to outside expectations. The charming house-shuffle of opener “Talk About” commences with a few unanswered questions from some nameless journalist (before turning much darker). The brilliant disco-revival gleaming beneath “Why” (feat. Nate Salman) is an obligatory repeat centered around battling lovers. Final cut “Do Right” listens like an overdue apology set forth into the world via a carnival balloon of electro-soul. These moments of intimacy are just kept segregated by the static renderings of good tech-house.
Despite the follies, there is a bright future for this side project. The sensual duet lining “Bellow” hints at an artist capable of deep house melodies comparable to the standouts of the No. 19 label, and the found street sounds that rest in the rear of “Sticky” challenges the listener to peer deeper into the mix — a difficult task for any producer. Forget what is “original” or “good,” and just do you, Chaz.
Essential Tracks: “Why”, “Bother”