After building anticipation over the past few months, Toro y Moi releases his seventh studio album MAHAL via Dead Oceans.
Chaz continues to make music from the soul with this 13-track project showcasing inspiration from 1960s and 70s psychedelic rock to 1990s post-rock taking listeners on an auditory expedition as if they’re riding in the back of Bear’s Filipino jeepney that adorns the album’s cover. MAHAL features the previously released singles ‘Déjà Vu’, which arrived with a video directed by Justin Morris, ‘The Loop’ and ‘Postman’, both of which arrived with videos directed by Kid. Studio, and the Arlington Lowell-directed video for “Magazine” featuring Salami Rose Joe Louis. Fans can stream MAHAL here: toroymoi.deadoc.co/mahal
MAHAL arrives ahead of the release of GOES BY SO FAST, a short film starring Eric André and Chaz that brings the world of MAHAL to life. GOES BY SO FAST premiered at Brain Dead Studios last week and is directed by long-time Toro y Moi collaborator Harry Israelson (‘Live From Trona’, ‘Freelance’, ‘You and I’) and produced by Ways & Means. GOES BY SO FAST weaves together a variety of formats including narrative, documentary, animation and a live performance to create a film that further realises the world of MAHAL.
The second the album begins we’re immediately transported into the passenger seat, jeep sounds and all, ready for the ride Chaz and company have concocted for us. Seeds of some of MAHAL‘s 13 songs date back to the more explicitly rock-oriented What For? from 2015. MAHAL was mostly completed last year in Bear’s Oakland studio with the involvement of a host of collaborators, Sofie Royer and Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Neilson to Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo and the Mattson 2.
“I wanted to make a record that featured more musicians on it than any other record of mine. To have them live on that record feels grounded, bringing a communal perspective to the table.”
As a result, MAHAL is lush and surprising at every turn, from the cool-handed ‘The Loop’, which recalls Sly and the Family Stones, to the elastic psych rock of ‘Foreplay’ and the dizzying Mulatu Astatke-recalling of ‘Last Year’.
Lyrically, the album zooms in on generational concerns, picking up where the ‘Outer Peace’ standout “Freelance” effectively left off. Bear seems to be surveying the ways in which we connect with technology, media, each other, and what disappears as a result. Cuts like the squishy “Postman” and “Magazine” take a deep dive into our relationship with media in a changing digital world. “It’s interesting to see how we adapt to this new age. We’re so connected, but we’re still missing out on things,” Bear ruminates while discussing the album’s themes.
It’s not all introspection. Bear cools things down near the album’s end with the Mattson 2-featuring ‘Millennium’, a laid-back jam with tricky guitar licks about ringing in new times even when everything else seems upside down.
“It’s about enjoying the new year, even when it’s been sh*tty. There’s nothing else to do.”
Finding a sense of joy in the face of adversity is embedded in ‘MAHAL’s DNA, right down to the jeepney that literally and figuratively brings the music out into the community.
“We know that touring is messed up for now, and large gatherings are a fluke. It’s about the notion of us going out to the people and bringing the record to them.”
And with the wide-open atmosphere of MAHAL, Toro y Moi stands to connect with more listeners than ever before.
Cover photo: Chris Maggio