Toro y Moi – ‘Mahal’ review: Californian experimentalist offers a pastiche to suit every taste

Five years in the making, the artist's seventh studio album is a divine demonstration of genre-blending, psychedelic electronic music

‘Mahal’, Toro y Moi’s seventh studio album, opens with an engine revving, a heavy guitar riff, skittish hi-hats and a crescendo of a band in full swing. It instantly indicates that audiences’ expectations are about to be subverted. As that engine sound propels the album forward, ‘Mahal’ centres around an exploration of sound as the Californian artist nimbly skips across genres over 13 tracks.

Released on the record label Dead Oceans, home to the likes of Mitski, Khruangbin and Phoebe Bridgers, ‘Mahal’ took over five years to make. The project brings together a heavyweight, eclectic group of artists including like-minded collaborators such as Iranian-Austrian artist Sofie Royer, Ruban Neilson of New Zealand psych-rockers Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo.

Weaving lackadaisical ‘60s and ‘70s psychedelic rock with squishy electronics, the artist also known as Chaz Bear floats between the decades, paying homage to the sounds in each – all of this underpinned by a unique experimental aesthetic that only he could have created. ‘Mahal’, his boldest project yet, marks Toro y Moi as a bonafide auteur.

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On ‘Mahal’, the lyrics are precise without needing the artist needing to explain himself further, allowing the listener to interpret them as they please. “Rosemary bushes still grow everywhere / Cut and burn it all so wе can say a prayer / How did I get so wrapped in currеnt affairs? / Inescapable extinction tries to scare”, Toro y Moi sings on ‘Magazine’.

The instrumentation is sublime throughout ‘Mahal’. Opening track ‘The Medium’ is a guitar-heavy tune and candied keys, while the leisurely (and ironically titled) ‘Goes By Fast’ slows down the gears into modulated vocals, which appear to be suspended in time. ‘Clarity’ – featuring Vienna-based musician Sofie Royer – ‘Foreplay’ and ‘Déjà Vu provide a beautiful start to the second half of the project, before ‘Way Too Hot’, ‘Millennium’ and ‘Days in Love’ amble towards the sunset with woozy guitar riffs and warm percussion.

‘Postman’ is a stand-out track, with its pop-infused upbeat rhythms worming their way into the frame as Toro y Moi sings: “Mr. Postman / Did I get mail? / Did I get a letter? / Did I get a postcard?”. This project is sure to surprise fans with its unique sensibility, further showcasing how difficult it is to constrict the artist into any specific genre. Chaz borrows multiple elements to create something wholly unique, skating through sounds to create a genre pastiche to suit every taste.

Details

Release date: April 29th

Record label: Dead Oceans

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