What do you do when you finally get everything you ever wanted? Are you happy now? Or do you just have a whole new set of surreal problems you could never have imagined before? Would that warp your sense of reality? Good problems to have, I guess, but for Chaz Bear (formerly Chaz Bundick) of Toro Y Moi, they were very real. The identity crisis drove him back to ambient music as a cushion against a reality that was becoming increasingly incomprehensible. The end result is Boo Boo, Toro Y Moi's most emotional and personal record to date.
By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK contributor
A constant feeling of emptiness haunts this record. The washed out retro synths and stripped down drums keep the focus on a sense of space. It's no surprise that the video released with the record follows an uneventful drive, or that the album's emotional heart is a song about staring forlornly out a window. Bear's often kept emotions at arm's length on previous records, but on tracks like “Mirage” and “Windows,” his dispassion is the point and surprisingly captivating. This is a record that uses AutoTune to emphasize alienation and it fucking works. This is a record more obsessed with the space between notes than the notes themselves; melodies and phrases rarely end, they just evaporate. Even the unabashed pop songs like “Girl Like You” and “Labyrinth” have an undercurrent of melancholy. That's not to say it's miserable, so much as it's a late night drive in search of somewhere to go.
Chaz Bear explains the album: “After 7 years of touring and recording, I found myself becoming self conscious about my position in life as a ‘famous’ person, or at least my version of whatever that is. My dreams had become my reality, yet I was somehow unable to accept this new environment. I couldn’t help but fall into what might be described as an identity crisis. A feedback loop of fearful thoughts left me feeling confused. I felt as though I no longer knew what it was that I actually wanted and needed in and out of life, and at times I felt unable to even tell what was real.
During this time of personal turmoil, I turned to music as a form of therapy, and it helped me cope with the pain that I was feeling. I’d listen to the same ambient song over and over again, trying to insulate myself from reality. I fell in love with space again.
By the time I felt ready to begin working on a new record, I knew that this idea of space within music would be something that propelled my new work forward. The artists that were influencing what I was making included everyone from Travis Scott to Daft Punk, Frank Ocean to Oneohtrix Point Never, Kashif and Gigi Masin. I recognized that the common thread between these artists was their attention to a feeling of space, or lack thereof. I decided that I wanted to make a Pop record with these ideas in mind. That idea for a record is what eventually became Boo Boo.”