Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi collaborates with improv duo on ‘Star Stuff’

Spaced out

Apr 19, 2017 at 1:00 am

What do you get when two improvisers have a musical meeting with 30-year-old Chaz Bundick in his home studio? Well, they call it Star Stuff, and on the press release state that it's "100 percent collaborative." His 33 percent of the record (give or take) is in the vocals, synths, autoharp, and six other credits on the album. The rest came from a group called the Mattson 2. Bird noises can also be heard all over the record, a product of Bundick's tinkering. The album doesn't feel heavily manicured, though; it's more like a fractal caught in a bottle.

"They [The Mattson 2] did their parts and I went in and added lots of little things," Bundick explains.

Bundick's most well-known endeavor is the justly-celebrated Toro y Moi, but there's so much more to his artistic universe. A self-proclaimed workaholic, Bundick has had four releases from three different projects in the past eight months. This includes both a single and a live album from Toro y Moi, Star Stuff, and an ambient track under the name Plum.

Just this month, Carpark released a music video for the newest Toro y Moi single, "Omaha," which is part of the "Our First 100 Days" benefit project. It involves Bundick submerging himself fully-clothed in a bathtub and setting off a Rube Goldberg almost-suicide machine made up of household items. "It definitely took a long time to get that machine to work like that; it was a pretty strenuous shoot actually," Bundick says. "It was shot in Portland and filmed just a couple months ago."

Bundick's most recent works, either solo or with TYM, brim with a shiny sense of creative freedom, and this release is no exception. On Star Stuff, Bundick and the Mattson 2 worked out an expansive eight tracks of blazing psych jams like the opener "Sonmoi," tempered with some cooled-off rock-jazz tracks like the first single, "JBS." (Think Thrust-era Herbie Hancock.) The vocals are sparse, acting like another instrument. It's bright, refreshing, and tangy, like Bundick's taste in LaCroix. ("Tangerine," he says. "Anything citrus I like.")

While the record does bear some resemblance to Bundick's older material, the synth stylings closely associated with Toro y Moi are only featured a little bit. "We only wanted one section of the album to have some more traditional electronic," he says. Bundick says that lounge music was a big influence on the new album: "I think we were both trying to draw from the '70s, mainly soundtrack stuff."

Unlike the Toro y Moi touring unit, this group is limited to the three folks pictured on the album cover, Bundick and the identical twin Mattson brothers. The cover photo itself was taken at Bundick's home studio and features two of his own paintings on the mantle in the background. "I've been painting on and off for the past year, trying to get back into the visual side of creativity," he says. This is reflected in the live Toro y Moi concert film Live From Trona where he tailored "all the sort of tiny art direction things." The film, which is available for purchase on Vimeo, was greatly inspired by Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii, sharing a "no audience" motif.

Bundick says the first Detroit show he ever played was at the Detroit Eagle leather bar (now the Marble Bar) in 2009 when he was 23. It was a "Disco/Secret" night, a weekly party featuring '70s dance music. "Wow, that was a long time ago," he says. "That was not even a show really; it was this really dead gay bar, it was so weird. There was like no one there."

Since then, Bundick has returned to Detroit a handful of times to the Magic Stick (once when it was Populux). He is playing at the Loving Touch for the first time this Friday, April 21. "For this tour, we were going for smaller venues because we didn't know what to expect for this album, if anything," he says.

On Bundick's "What's in My Bag?" video for Amoeba Music, he is seen purchasing a record from Detroit's beloved and oft-sampled jazz harp pioneer Dorothy Ashby (1930-1986). Bundick says he is very interested in "astral jazz." Lately, Bundick has been listening to lots of new records — Steve Lacy's new album, the latest from Frank Ocean, and ex-Mac DeMarco live guitarist Peter Sagar's (as Homeshake) new record In the Shower, to name a few.

Star Stuff could be one of a few projects for Bundick this year. He's no stranger to collaborations, as in the past he's worked with Rome Fortune, Tyler the Creator, Travis Scott, The Avalanches, and Chromeo, to name a few — none of which are quite like what happens on Star Stuff.

Surely more collaborations and solo music are waiting in the wings of Bundick's busy mind. "I have so many little things I'm juggling, I've been producing a lot of bands lately," he says. "That's pretty much it for the time being."

Chaz Bundick plays the Loving Touch on Friday April 21; doors at 8 p.m.; 22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale;; tickets are $15.