Release Date: Apr 8, 2014
Record label: Brainfeeder
Genre(s): Electronic, IDM, Left-Field Hip-Hop
Head here to submit your own review of this album. E s t a r a is the second full length LP from Mtendere Mandowa, or to you and I, the accomplished painter and producer Teebs. Living in the same flat and releasing music on the same label as peers Samiyam and Flying Lotus, his debut Ardour showcased his aptitude and vision as a producer with a distinctive, organic sound.
In between his 2010 debut album Ardour and its 2014 follow-up Estara, Teebs' Mtendere Mandowa spent a little time collaborating on music with friends like Prefuse 73, and a lot of time on his painting. It's hard to say whether it was the time spent honing his visual art that gives his first album's gorgeous sonics more shape and structure on Estara, but it's undeniable that Teebs' music feels more dynamic and disciplined. Even more than before, his tracks are like sound paintings: on songs like "SOTM," carefully layered samples and beats pop in and out, advance and recede, and circle each other in calming, yet active, ways.
As the sweet soporific melodies of opening track "The Endless" caress your ears into submission almost immediately, it becomes quickly apparent that Teebs hasn't lost his ability paint a glorious summer day with nothing but a sampler and Fruity Loops. From start to finish, there isn't an aggressive note on the album. Yes, this means it's got no edge whatsoever, but who needs edge when you've got a colourful bubble that sails around town, occasionally bumping into chimes and emitting a subtle sub-sonic frequency?Teebs' earlier releases always had some ties to hip hop, even if they were fairly loose at best.
Review Summary: In its own way, this album is everything we could have hoped for: freewheeling, easygoing, generous, and, of course, breathtakingly gorgeous.E S T A R A, the second full-length release from L.A. beatmaker Teebs, has been met with a reaction best characterized as lukewarm. “Rather static and enclosed,” quips Tinymixtapes’ Stephen Weil, where The Quietus’ Ed Ledsham opts for “pleasant background music”.
Mtendre Mandowa, AKA Teebs, has known darkness. He wrote his debut album, Ardour, while mourning his late father. But his music, in which he micro-manipulates loops into a gorgeous, amorphous mist, exists in a precious realm impervious to sadness. In the tradition of West Coast acts dating all the way back to the classic rock bands of 1960s, this LA-based producer radiates an easy, sunkissed warmth.
“Easy Listening” can be a derogatory term. The connotations are of elevator rides, music labeled “Adult Contemporary”, and Kenny G. Teebs’ (aka Mtendere Mandowa) newest album E S T A R A isn’t easy listening, but it is one of the easiest listening experiences you’ll have this year. Mandowa’s production is tranquil and blissful while still holding a joyous energy.
In case you were wondering, Ardour still sounds immersively gorgeous three and a half years later. Teebs' debut had a way of flooding your ears with greenery, lush environments seeping out of speakers and making it feel like the ambient temperature was 68 degrees no matter where you were. As low-intensity and mellow as it was, the warped instrumenation and crackling undercurrents of static and accelerated-aging decay seemed immediately tactile, doing for your ears what a look up into sunlight filtered through a canopy of leaves does for your eyes.
It's not easy to put your finger on exactly what's changed in the four years since Los Angeles producer Teebs (aka Mtendere Mandowa) dropped his debut full-length, Ardour. His trademark soft-focus ambient hip-hop sound is still front and centre, but things feel a little less warm, and maybe a little too smooth. Could it be that he's become too adept at production in the meantime, and inadvertently sanded away too much of his earlier work's charming roughness? An alternate explanation is that he's just in a calmer and more content headspace now, especially considering that Ardour was written and recorded in the immediate aftermath of his father's death.
Here are my results when I do a Google search for the word “estara”: First, a definition courtesy of Wiktionary: In Spanish, Galician, and Portuguese, estará is apparently a future indicative form of the verb estar, to be. Fourth, the Realm of Estara, a “fully immersive medieval role play environment in the virtual world of Second Life,” where “faith and fate are the key!” Fifteenth, South Africa’s Estara Guesthouse and Function Centre, located “at the foot of the majestic Magaliesberg. ” “Have you ever felt like you have the world on your shoulders? And all you want to do is escape? We have the solution!!!” And sixth, a Resident Advisor announcement of the new LP by Mtendere Mandowa, the Los Angeles-based producer and visual artist better known as Teebs, who has named his second proper full-length E S T A R A after the home studio where he works.
A needle skipping across a dusty 45, loose change rattling in a laundromat dryer, birds chirping across an empty urban lot, the hum of a distant fluorescent light bulb. These sounds, or ones very much like them, are just some that Mtendere Mandowa, or Teebs, samples on E S T A R A. Having first sustained his move to southern California (where he developed his production under Brainfeeder boss Flying Lotus) by crate-digging classics for subsequent visual projects, Teebs has never lost that sense of aesthetic rejuvenation.
Teebs — Estara (Brainfeeder)Brainfeeder, the child of Steven Ellison aka Flying Lotus, is a curious affair. Ellison set the bar for head-nodding, good-shit-bong-smoke, L. A-warm-breeze instrumental hip-hop with 1983 (2006) and Los Angeles (2008), and then moved on to more jazzy, spazzy, disparate genre-bending materials with Cosmosgramma (one minute he has Thom Yorke in an Aphex Twin spin, the next he has cousin Ravi Coltrane playing sax over broken-beat, free jazz like it’s an Ornette Coleman improve.
The LA-based artist Teebs (Mtendere Mandowa) is part of Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder crew/label, and his wonky ambient beat-making fits right into their aesthetic. His new album E s t a r a is his second official release following 2010's Ardour, the album features collaborations with Prefuse 73, Jonti, Populous and Lars Horntveth. Alongside music-making, Mandowa is a dedicated visual artist specialising in collage, and his distinctive style can be found on each of his album covers.