Les Sins: Michael

Toro Y Moi's Chaz Bundick steps away from his main project to try his hand at a plethora of European electronic styles on his first album as Les Sins.

Les Sins


Label: Company / Carpark
US Release Date: 2014-11-04
UK Release Date: 2014-11-03

Credit where it’s due: Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick isn’t satisfied to just keep churning out chillwave hits for the same indie crowd that swooned over his debut album Causers of This four years ago. He wants to evolve and create something different, remove himself from any pigeonhole he may feel he’s fallen into; that’s really what new project Les Sins is all about. For Bundick, Les Sins isn’t a safe retreat from his successful main project, nor an easy place to land; it’s a fresh start, something that’s open to interpretation, modifiable, and, more than anything, an experiment. Michael, Bundick’s first album under the new moniker, is by that measure not a consistent or single-minded record, but it is in a weird way a success for the artist. The album won’t compete with any of the Toro Y Moi releases — either in the future or right now — but in some abstract way, it seems like that was the goal.

Bundick’s working with a new set of tools on Michael. He’s pulling apart the lo-fi pop that made Toro Y Moi unique and re-configuring it into cold, simple arrangements where chopped samples provide the hooks. He avoids running in place on the album, instead sucking all the variety and flavor out of each individual composition before moving on. The producer tries on European chillout on “Bellow” and “Toy”; "Why" sparks from the technicolor disco revivalism of latter day French house acts like Daft Punk and Breakbot; “Minato” is channeled through deep bass and discordant trance synths seemingly directly inspired by the dark grooves of French producer Gesaffelstein. The album’s press release even notes that “Bundick imagines [Michael to be] the perfect music for the neon-lit, fast paced Ginza district in Tokyo.” It’s clear that Bundick doesn't know exactly where he wants to go with Les Sins, but it’s apparently far away from where he’s been for the last four years.

And yet for all that, Bundick doesn't seem committed. Michael is plagued by underachievement and half-written songs; for an artist testing the water of other styles, he sure isn't pushing himself. It doesn't help that his accomplishments with Les Sins are often held back by awkward compositional decisions. “Call” is one of the more thoroughly filled out arrangements, but the constant repeat of its vocal sample is enormously grating. This is a problem all throughout Michael, particularly with “Bother”, which centers itself around a vocal sample that Bundick seemingly tried to chop and flip in a way that might resemble a rapper’s flow, but the technique’s bland simplicity is revealingly lazy and more than a little obnoxious. Unfortunately, the experiments done through Les Sins seem to follow that standard: interesting concept, halfhearted execution.

It’s a mixed bag. Bundick is trying on a little bit of everything with Les Sins, perfecting nothing but never quite failing either. Michael is the result of an artist eager to expand his library of sounds but not quite sure where to start or how to go about it. It’s enchanting as a portrait of a skilled musician in a state of transition, and as a loose collection of brief, miscellaneous dance jams, it’s amusing to say the least, but as a new statement by an already well-established musician, it feels noticeably amateurish. The problem for Bundick is not that he tried to make something different with Les Sins, but instead that he couldn't focus the effort. Michael may stand as an important learning experience for the artist because of that, but for everyone else, it’s a curiosity.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.