Toro Y Moi / Cloud Nothings Split 7″
1. I Will Talk to You
2. For No Reason
Split seven inch from Toro Y Moi and Cloud Nothings.
When singer-songwriter Dylan Baldi began recording hyper-catchy and often deliriously distorted guitar-pop songs on a computer in his parents’ Cleveland basement, he was doing it alone—juggling every instrument and singing undefinable lyrics that used obtuse abstractions as much as they did teenage diary. The young, once-tuxedoed concert saxophonist started releasing a flurry of lo-fi earworms across 7” singles, cassette splits, benefit compilations, and one album, Turning On. Released by Carpark in 2010, the album will be reissued on vinyl in 2020 for its 10-year anniversary.
With the 2000s coming to a close, blog circuit hype was enough to book the then-18-year-old as the opener at a Brooklyn show with members of the next class of Internet-acclaimed “indie rock” bands. Baldi quickly formed a group with friends from the Cleveland music scene and drove to New York. Amidst a year of touring, Baldi recorded a self-titled album alone, this time in a studio, with a producer, and the backing of Carpark Records.
But forming that initial live band proved to be the key component to the project’s success. Together, as a unit, they shattered blog expectations with the 2012 release of Attack on Memory: an angry, often-in-the-red album composed of vocal-shredding jams about malaise, as well as tightly-wound pop songs about violence and confusion. What followed were brutal albums of hook-filled harshness (2014’s Here and Nowhere Else and 2018’s Last Building Burning) and stunning melodic clarity (2017’s Life Without Sound and 2020’s The Black Hole Understands), each distinctly different.
Cloud Nothings has brought their cathartic live show to stages around the globe, including festivals like Coachella, Primavera Sound, Bonnaroo, and Pitchfork. Home audiences have seen them on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Last Call with Carson Daly, A.V. Club’s Undercover series (notoriously reimagining Coldplay’s “Clocks”), multiple KEXP sessions, and much more.
Before recording new album The Shadow I Remember, Baldi began writing one song a day, much like he did when he first started the project. Only a few months into 2020, Baldi had amassed a significant new library of songs. Ten of those songs became the surprise album The Black Hole Understands, which Baldi and drummer Jayson Gerycz collaborated on via e-mail while quarantining separately.
The band is currently comprised of Baldi on guitar, vocals, and songwriting duties; bassist TJ Duke; guitarist Chris Brown; and drummer Gerycz. Each is an accomplished musician with a slew of other musical endeavors to their name. Some of these projects exist in the same guitar-pop realm as their main band, while other projects veer into avant, grotesque, and otherworldly zones fit for only the most fried and open ears. Through consistent touring and a steadfast dedication to growing as friends and collaborators, the four-piece has perfected a heavy, aural-assault style and merged it with Baldi’s ridiculous pop genius. This amalgamation is beautifully evident on The Shadow I Remember.
For their fifth studio full-length as a band (and ninth album under the project name), they reconvened with legendary producer and engineer Steve Albini, who helmed the sessions for the breakthrough Attack on Memory. “He has a gift,” Baldi says. “He naturally makes it sound right. Albini’s work is a presentation of the band as they are. No affectation.” On The Shadow I Remember, the producer captures the band at its strongest. Though the lyrics concern the debilitating despair of everyday life, the band can be heard joyously playing unabashed, volume-driven, ear-drum-crushers that masterfully highlight Baldi’s astonishing songcraft.
Looking back on more than a decade of music-making as Cloud Nothings, the group has plenty of reasons to be proud. Though no one expects the beings who gave us the song “No Future / No Past” to pause for nostalgia or pride. “So many bands can fizzle out and fade into sameness, but it’s never been like that for them,” Brown, who joined in 2016, says of his bandmates. With The Shadow I Remember seeing the band mature and cohere like never before, it feels as if the group is only just getting started. “We’ve been mad at each other. We’ve had life-changing times together. We’ve been through so much,” Gerycz says. “At the end of the day, we’re still very close friends and we care a lot about each other. How could it ever end?”
Chaz Bear (formerly Bundick) was a musician from birth. Growing up, it was normal to hear music across genres, from Michael Jackson to Elvis Costello to The Specials, in the Bundick household. These influences were quite unique for a biracial kid growing up in South Carolina, contributing to the complexity of Chaz’s self-understanding and expression through his own music.
Chaz began playing and recording original compositions in his preteen years, forming multiple indie bands starting in middle school and continuing until his personal project, Toro y Moi, was signed by Carpark Records in 2009. Before getting signed, he was already an incredibly prolific artist, having released over 10 Toro y Moi albums on his own (and undoubtedly retaining a vast compendium of unreleased songs). His personal work drew upon a vaster array of influences than did his full band. Early Toro work called upon Chaz’s childhood exposure to 80’s R&B, pop and electronic music, while also evolving with his discoveries of acts like My Bloody Valentine and J Dilla and his burgeoning interest in French house. Just before his graduation from the University of South Carolina, where he earned a degree in graphic design, Chaz caught the attention of music bloggers and record labels with his dreamy, bedroom recordings, eventually compiled into his first album under Carpark Records, Causers of This.
Causers was one of a few albums to kick off the trend of home-recorded, hazy albums relying heavily on samples and production, evoking the feeling of a muggy, Southern summer. While the album did well and broke ground for Chaz’s career as a musician, it resulted in the widespread assumption that Chaz was a one trick pony, able only to write music similar to that of Causers. He immediately made it clear that he is an extremely dynamic musician with the 2011 release of Underneath the Pine, an album recorded between tours that was composed entirely of live instrumentation, moving away from the sample-based aesthetic of Causers. From then on, Chaz released an album every other year (sometimes more frequently), each one a display of his adeptness with different genres. While each album was distinct and sometimes a complete departure from the previous, Chaz’s unique production techniques and melodic sensibilities tie them all together. Whether listening to the psych rock-based What For? or 2017’s R&B-influenced Boo Boo, it is always clear that it’s a Toro y Moi album.
The most recent Toro y Moi album, Outer Peace, was written and recorded in the Bay Area after Chaz’s return from a one year stint in Portland. It is somewhat of a homecoming celebration, filled with features by friends and saturated with a playfulness that had not previously been embraced in past Toro albums. Outer Peace stands in contrast to the more sparse and contemplative Boo Boo, an album recorded while in Portland in relative isolation. With Outer Peace, Chaz showcases his ability to remain on the cutting edge of music’s evolution while not taking himself too seriously. There are contemporary hip hop references mixed in with funk, Eurodance and ambient elements, all interwoven expertly and retaining that quintessential Toro y Moi aesthetic.
Only five days after releasing Outer Peace, Chaz posted a photo of a cassette titled “SOUL TRASH V1” on his Instagram with Dropbox link to what appeared to be a mixtape. Later, the post and link were taken down and for the first time, Soul Trash will receive a proper release on October 29th along with a short film by Laneya Billingsley.