Toro y Moi pumps up the chillwave at Belly Up Aspen

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Toro y Moi, led by singer-keyboardist Chaz Bundick, plays tonight at Belly Up.
Andrew Paynter |

Toro y Moi, with Classixx (live) opening

Thursday at 9:30 p.m.

Belly Up

When Toro y Moi emerged a few years ago, the group got lumped in with something called chillwave, a music style that was heavy on effects, electronics and synthesizers, but minimalist in other ways. The genre was marked by a lo-fi aesthetic, the “groups” making the music were sometimes just one person, and the primary instrument was often a laptop. A New York Times article from 2010 referred to chillwave as “recession-era music: low-budget and danceable.”

If Toro y Moi ever were part of chillwave, that association probably came to a close early this year, with the release “Anything in Return.” The album, the band’s third, is anything but lo-fi. The sound is rich, sharp and deep, borrowing from the slicker ends of mainstream pop and rhythm and blues.

“I was trying to focus on a higher sonic quality — get a big studio sound,” Chaz Bundick, the leader of Toro y Moi, said while driving to Denver. “I’m not usually concerned with that; that doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s a good song. But I was messing around, trying to see if I could come close to those big-sounding albums, Top 40 and R&B-oriented stuff. That’s what I was referencing sonic-wise.”

What fans see tonight at Belly Up, where Toro y Moi makes its local debut, is also far from minimalist. Bundick, playing keyboards and singing, will be backed by four additional musicians — a guitarist, bassist, drummer and a second keyboardist. Despite the fact that “Anything in Return” was an effort to use the studio as a way to meticulously craft an album, and the live show is based around live instruments, Bundick believes the recorded material translates well to the stage. “It actually works really well,” said the 26-year-old, who played guitar and sang in indie rock bands, along the lines of Interpol, Modest Mouse and Weezer, during his high school and college years in South Carolina.

In taking on the role of producer for “Anything in Return,” Bundick had one eye on his future. He can see himself becoming a producer for other artists, especially in the fields of hip-hop and R&B.

But when Bundick looks ahead, he can also envision a return to where Toro y Moi came from. He thinks his next project with the band won’t be in a proper studio, like the Different Fur Studios in San Francisco where “Anything in Return” was made.

“I’ll probably go back to my house and record,” he said of the next album.