Les Sins - Michael

by Colin Bugler

Chazwick Bradley Bundick - known to many as genre-blurring hip-hop act, Toro Y Moi - has adopted a new moniker: Les Sins. Les Sins’ debut LP release, Michael, seems to go far beyond Toro’s already significant scope for experimentation in electronic music.

Bundick’s latest ego has attempted an ambitious foray from the distinctive loose songwriting and pop melancholy of 2013’s Anything in Return. Most critics have nailed the album down as a conscious venture from bedroom beats to floor-fillers – a symptom of America’s widely identified growing infatuation with European dance music. It’s hard to disagree, though the variety of genres competently wielded by Bundick make the LP far more than just a dance record.

My first encounter with Bundick’s music came on an overnight flight from Toronto to London, when I stumbled across Say That on Air Canada’s ‘relaxed’ playlist; I was completely blown away by Bundick’s seeming ability to carry off relaxed, DIY pop, while balancing a bewildering array of sounds and instruments against refreshingly simple hooks and vocals. He manages the beautifully simple and complex at the same time. Needless to say, I was hooked. I eagerly jumped at the chance to grab a listen to an advance stream of the producer’s latest effort due this November. Without the guidance of track listings, I jumped in with absolutely no idea what to expect aside from a couple of blog reviews, many of which were largely positive.

Michael opens with a techy beat and vocal samples. An interviewer enquires, “Tell me about your latest record” to lead off, with Bundick chopping up a rapped East Coast reply. Jackin’ house dominates the feel of the track, and “Who got shot in the dome?” is the eventual revealed sample as the bassline thumps along.

True to form, the next track is completely different. In fact, it’s hard to believe that they are from the same album, let alone the same artist. Michael does have the feel of a compilation at times, certainly upon first listen when the scope of the experiment is revealed as an attempt to showcase Bundick’s talent for production, regardless of dance genre. Here, dub bass prevails, and the chorus (if it can be called a chorus) echoes James Blake-esque vocoder electronica. A verse from a London MC wouldn’t feel out of place, albeit being bizarre territory for one of the originators of the ‘chillwave’ genre.

At 8:00 in the clipped Toro style grooves return, led by a jazz flute riff before the return of the earlier grime/dub bass for the track’s finish. Yet again my expectations were completely thrown with an excursion into 10:33’s Mediterranean vibey pop, with echoes of French bands, Phoenix and Daft Punk, simmering below. 14:35 takes us back to underground UK house as the track’s apparent source of inspiration, with a shuffling groove and stark intro, leaving the sample “Don’t bother me, I’m working” to stand for itself amid minimal percussion. You get the clearest sense of the dancefloor here, with Bundick taking a similar approach to that of Breach’s more suggestive Jack (brought to clubs in the Winter of 2013). Yet even that is swiftly broken down into a huge instrumental, organ-drenched crescendo, soon fading out itself to be replaced by a slower beat and sample. The song fades out to the last stabs of “Work, work”.

29:20 departs into the more ravey side of underground music, with fatter synths, main-room vocal samples, chopped drums, and wobbly bass - all typical of mainstream dance. This is another moment of interest, certainly worth listening out for. Vocal ad-libs reminiscent of Goulding resonate in the background in a way that reminded me bizarrely of the Pound Cake beat from Drake’s Nothing Was The Same LP of last year. The album closes with more relaxed electro.