Opting to wait until the initial chillwave craze calmed down before releasing his own full length debut, Chaz Bundick (the man behind Toro y Moi) was a bit of a gamble. Last summer, the um.. charmingly named subgenre was exploding with the likes of Neon Indian, Washed Out, and Memory Tapes, and while Toro y Moi would have certainly enjoyed a reasonable amount of popularity, there was more risk of being lumped in with the movement. In a way, however, it was probably not necessary, had that been the idea. Causers of This is much more relaxed than anything his contemporaries released, and for this Bundick definitely stands out. However, it doesn’t have as much dynamism either, and it’s a shame, because it’s a quality damning enough to render a beautiful, well crafted album forgettable.
The opening duo of Blessa and Minors does indeed put Bundick’s proverbial best foot forward. The first ten seconds of Blessa grab you instantly with its warped synths and, scratchy and hissing samples, and Bundick’s tender voice. By the time the beat kicks in, and the melodies really take hold, you’re already hooked. He carries it over expertly to Minors, with the song starting as if the intro had been cut off, letting us dive right into its warm and enveloping vibe. These two songs signify everything that’s great about Toro y Moi: they’re pieced together very meticulously without necessarily sounding as such, the melodies are beautiful, and they’re very well textured, with layers often swimming around each other and producing a wonderful washed out effect. Lissoms is the other early standout; the tempo remains the same throughout, much as the first two tracks do, except right in the middle momentum piles up completely out of nowhere and a light dance beat is fashioned. It’s as startling as it is immediately alluring, and it’s gone as abruptly as it appeared. And herein lies the problem with Causers of This – there are virtually no other moments like this.
Take Neon Indian’s Psychic Chasms, for example. Same style, perhaps even similar equipment, but Alan Palomo was more dynamic in his approach. There were soothing moments, aggressive moments, and plenty that were so artfully weird all you could do was listen in awe. Psychic Chasms also had a certain soul to it, which is ironic considering that this was achieved with distorted samples and effects, but soul nonetheless. It conjured up memories of summers past, it had this universal feel-good retrospection about it that wasn’t particularly deep, but was tremendously effective.
Bundick has got the soothing moments down pat, in fact this is easily the most relaxing, calming release to come out of the whole chillwave, glo-fi, bullshit whatever you want to call it scene. He’s even got a great detached-but-not-really quality to his voice that especially shines on Thanks Vision and Talamak. And it’s not like the production quality takes any sort of dip after the record’s fantastic beginning. It’s just the fact that nothing really changes, and with everything presenting the same sound and mood, it’s a lot harder for any moments to stand out. By the time Bundick tries to implement a bit of R&B dance flavor to spice things up with Low Shoulders, it’s already too late to make much of an impact.
Causers of This sounds great, is expertly constructed, and a lovely listen. However, it’s one of those albums that sounds great while you listen to it, but doesn’t linger much afterward. Still, with as great as the positive aspects of Causers of This are, it’s very plausible that the second release he has slated for 2010 will be even better.