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Toro y Moi

Hole Erth

Release Date: 2024-09-06
Catalog No: DOC355
Label: Dead Oceans

Hole Erth, Chaz Bear’s eighth full-length studio record as Toro y Moi, is the genre shapeshifter’s most unexpected and bold move to date, with Bear diving headlong into rap-rock, Soundcloud rap and Y2K emo. The album blitzes anthemic pop-punk next to autotuned, melancholic rap – two genres that inform one another now more than ever before — and packs in the most features ever on a Toro y Moi album. We get Don Toliver’s moody crooning on the anti-love song “Madonna.” We get Kevin Abstract and Lev’s breathy reflections on “Heaven.” We get emo king Benjamin Gibbard, the beating heart of millennial indie for crying out loud. Recorded in the span of a few months across late 2023 and early 2024, Hole Erth’s features built naturally over that short span, with Bear simply reaching out to long-time friends. The sum of Hole Erth’s parts is massive, and demonstrates Bear’s deft abilities as a producer, especially in hip-hop; his role in the culture has long been solidified from previous collaborations with some of rap's biggest trailblazers. It’s a daring left turn for Bear, but the feel is effortless, the make-it-look-easy of a master at work. All told, Bear pushes himself into new sonic ground for the TyM oeuvre while embracing the project’s celebrated, well-known electronic beginnings. Hole Erth is brand new, but somehow perfectly at home.

The album’s title is an homage to Whole Earth, Stewart Brand’s DIY periodical from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the central purpose of which was to empower people to be holistically self-sufficient. From product reviews of carpentry tools, to how-to guides for growing your own food, to techno-optimistic analyses that’d go on to inspire Silicon Valley startup culture, parallels of the catalog’s DIY ethos can be found all throughout Hole Erth. Bear cites gorpcore, a new-age fashion trend of functional, outdoorsy outerwear worn as streetwear, as influencing the album’s aesthetic. This also ties back to Brand’s influential counterculture catalog. Bear notes: “Things have gone in a more gorp-y direction. Humans are tapping into this more tribal, earthier aesthetic. The Whole Earth catalog is this encyclopedic, self-sustaining guide. With the album title alone, that’s something I wanted to spark as a conversation. We can be off the grid, and also be on the internet, and try out all of these different lifestyles at the same time.” This sense of duality exists within Hole Erth: it’s seeped in the technological world while embracing real-world human connection.

The sounds that make up Hole Erth might feel like new territory for Bear, but in reality it’s a return to form for Toro y Moi – a project that has always orbited electronic music. “Toro is not a rock band,” Bear assures. “To me, my folk records and psych rock records are the side quests. What I fell in love with with the Toro project were the electronic productions – the samples. There’s always more to be done in the electronic world.” His experimentation with electronic production is most obvious on tracks like album opener “Walking In The Rain,” an immediate immersion into the brooding pulse of Hole Erth. Given Bear’s work with some of modern rap’s most influential acts, it’s no surprise that his autotuned cadence and cheeky play-on-words calls to mind the moody braggadocio of today’s popular hip-hop. “Hollywood,” featuring Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service fame, places warped vocals and ephemeral sound bites of internet dial-up beneath watery ruminations on celebrity and the delusions prevalent in Tinseltown. The track’s nostalgic nods in combination with Bear’s genre fluidity is a Toro y Moi trademark that can be heard throughout his discography. From the twangy, laidback reflections that comprised his most recent Sandhills EP, to the retro-futuristic grooves of 2019’s Outer Peace, Bear is no stranger to flexing his muscles as a forward-thinking musical chameleon, while still managing to make music that feels eternally familiar yet compelling.

A sense of nostalgia sneaks its way into almost every Toro y Moi release, but angst is an emotion that Bear has never intentionally explored the way he does here. Tracks like “Tuesday'' channel a specific, yet forever-relatable sense of adolescent unease. A distorted guitar riff leads into a repeating chorus that conjures misunderstood teenagers singing aloud, maybe too loud, while riding bikes through American suburbs. This foreboding can also be heard on “HOV,” though not without poking some fun with lines like “Romance is so cold / My advice? To bring a coat.”

A sense of playful ambition and experimentation sits at the core of Hole Erth. Bear has the energy, but is acutely aware that his energy isn’t forever. At a time when the internet is blending multiple genres into one at an increasingly rapid pace, Bear accomplishes the rare feat of keeping up with the contemporary alternative listener. Constantly changing, evolving and experimenting is the heart of Toro y Moi, and on Hole Erth Bear challenges but also reclaims himself, embracing the myriad sounds and eras that formed him, while crashing new worlds together.

Hole Erth is out September 6, 2024, on Dead Oceans.
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