Two producers take very different paths to aural bliss.
Leftfield, folktronica, indietronica, downtempo, chill-out, glo-fi... the genre names keep coming, keep getting stupider, and continue to be totally inadequate in their description of electronic music that's not made primarily for the dancefloor. Kieran Hebden (a.k.a. Four Tet) has now reached album number five, and over the past decade has seen his music wedged into one poorly named category after another, while Chaz Bundick's hazy debut as Toro Y Moi has found him plunked alongside Washed Out, Memory Tapes, and other like-minded producers in the loosely formed "chillwave" scene. Yet although Hebden and Bundick have different homelands, different backgrounds, different skill sets, and different talent levels, their music undeniably treads in similar sonic space—the interesting part is how they both managed to get there.
There Is Love in You is the first Four Tet full-length since 2005's Everything Ecstatic, and it continues that record's retreat from the folk-tinged sounds of his early career. Nevertheless, where Everything Ecstatic was often wonky and playful, There Is Love is a decidedly somber affair. Not that it's depressing; on the contrary, it's a pristine, even soothing listen. More than anything, the veteran UK producer sounds tastefully restrained, as though he's found a way to strip his music down to its essentials. While the songs are still complex and full of countless moving parts, each melody and note plays a specific role, leaving There Is Love with a real clarity of vision. For instance, album opener "Angel Echoes" conveys nothing so much as serenity, even as Hebden slices, layers, and interweaves a sonorous female vocal that could have been lifted from a Pure Moods compilation. The swirling analog synths of "Circling"—a track that could easily double as the soundtrack to a vintage high-school chemistry film—are similarly mollifying. Even the minimal techno beat, digital squall, and chopped-up R&B vocals of album centerpiece "Love Cry" do little to liven up the proceedings—There Is Love remains one wonderfully chilly record. While "Sing" and "Plastic People" are slightly punchier numbers, the former's 8-bit bleeps and the latter's bell-like synths simmer rather than boil. "This Unfolds" recalls Boards of Canada with its aqueous tones and woozy chimes, and the gently strummed guitar melody of the surprisingly organic "She Just Likes to Fight" wraps things up on a perfectly peaceful note.
Bundick's Causers of This is also peaceful, but the album's tranquil tones sound a lot more like happy accidents than well-executed plans. The debut full-length from the youthful South Carolinian pulls from a varied sound palette, bringing to mind Panda Bear (on "Blessa") and the kind of white '80s funk-pop that Hall and Oates made famous ("Imprint After," "Causers of This"). Oddly enough, Bundick's intricate compositions and reliance on organic elements sometimes brings to mind Four Tet's early work, although Bundick's output is notably funkier and his songs are bathed in an airy haze that really solidifies the Toro Y Moi sound. Add in the off-key singing on "You Hid" and the inelegant aural clutter of "Fax Shadow" and it seems that he's also lacking Hebden's immaculate attention to detail. Nevertheless, it's clear that Bundick is a talented producer; however, given that Causers of This contains both the dreamy psychedelia of "Minors" and the Discovery-era Daft Punk bounce of "Lissoms," he's also an unfocused one at this stage of his young career. But give him four albums and 10 years to work out the kinks, and he just might make something impeccable that punters can lump into whatever made-up genre name is being bandied about at the time.
Four Tet There Is Love in You: 9/10
Toro Y Moi Causers of This: 7/10