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Music

Toro Y Moi offers up a swirl of originality with new album 'Mahal'

@TomTaylorFO
Toro Y Moi - Mahal
8.2

About halfway through Toro Y Moi’s latest album, Mahal, you realise how far technology has advanced modern music. Like a postmodernist on speed, the sound greedily makes art out of the collision of science and sound on display—and by halfway through, I mean halfway through the first track.

The album is an amorphous swirl of sound that always somehow feels like a floating journey, some sort of pleasant lucid dream where old school friends make way for a leisurely game of tennis with the honey monster. However, beneath the wild snare of dreaminess that the weird and wonderful sounds offer up, is a musicology so turbulent that the contours, keys and instrumentation are like eight Miles Davis ensembles playing at once. 

From studio wizardry to guitar pedals that will have nerds praying for a rig rundown sometime soon, and a smattering of instruments akin to a symphony, it seemed like Toro Y Moi was cramming everything he possibly could into this record. However, everything nearly always seems to fit, which is a stunning credit to his craft. It’s like when you pack a suitcase yourself verses your mother’s measured attempt where everything tessellates like a master game of Tetris.

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That being said, much like that jammed suitcase, there are things that maybe don’t need to be in there. For all the record hides its complexity enough to be both smooth but clear about its originality, occasionally the production flourishes feel a bit too peacock-y and the concept itself is not quite lyrically sturdy enough to warrant it. That is all fine upon the first few listens, but there is a dawning point where you wonder, ‘Do we really need another bizarre interlude?’

Fortunately, a little jazz flute flourish will shortly charm your ear once more and you’ll be beguiled by the original journey that continues to unspool as early Tame Impala tones mix with Moi’s unique way of approaching music. As he said himself: “I wanted to make a record that featured more musicians on it than any other record of mine,” It is a mark of his musical confidence that he is happy to do so and welcomes in myriad genre twists as he goes along. 

Although that technique can often create something that seems to be wavering, with a lack of central lyric and structure driven ideas, the originality pulls it through—and that originality is upheld from seeming novelty by the sheer magnitude of impressive musicianship on display. While psychedelia and hip hop might be the two synonyms that pop up in descriptions the most, this record is essentially modern jazz, and it is kaleidoscopic enough to entrance listeners without them having to be aficionados in the first place.

With Mahal, the Bay Area just got a new funky frenzy to accompany a flow along the crooked coast in a convertible, with a record that would even whisk the wind through the locks of Moby and have a Yeti thinking about a trip to the beach sometime soon. You can check out the album, out now, below. 

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