‘E s t a r a’ is the latest full length and fifth total release Californian producer Teebs now has to his name, with the record seeing him taking his musical direction up a notch without succumbing to any violent changes. 2010 saw the rise to recognition for the young, wildly experimental musician deserved as he was welcomed into the now well established glitchy sound collective of Brainfeeder, headed by Flying Lotus. Since then, Teebs (born Mtendere Mandowa) has had a steady ride, pleasing listeners worldwide with his entrancing hypnotic soundscapes and smudged bass lines. It’s now been four years since the release of his last full length record, excluding the acclaimed ‘Collections 01’ which he describes to be more of a collection of sketches and although it feels like we’ve been waiting a decade, it was worth holding out.
His characteristic all consuming reverberations are something of a separation from the rest of the Brainfeeder crew who, although known for their experimental ventures, have much harsher, more defined sound bites than the artist in question. In many ways these signature audio blotches adopted by Mandowa are deeply reflected in his visual art which is just as much a part of the man’s artistic expression as his music. It only takes looking at a few of his vibrant paint jobs to see how the two mediums compliment each other so effectively. ‘E s t a r a’ is no different in that respect and as is clear across his musical journey, the sounds are immersive and provoke an almost synesthetic response.
Opening track ‘Endless’ smoothly directs the listener to just where he wants them, into a form of meditative slumber with a harmonic, bass-less loop, before we enter head first into ‘View Point’, a stepped up two and a half minute head bobber which brings with it reassurance that we are in no doubt listening to a Teebs work. In fact there are only a few points throughout the record where we are removed from this comfort and offered a hint of something entirely new. That is exactly what we are made to feel in ‘Shouss Lullaby’ which still retains the vital Teebs credentials in the form of sampled guitar chords and knocking wind chimes but partners these with some of the most satisfying percussions heard on any track released by the producer to date.
With his body of work now large enough to get an idea of the bigger picture of Mandowa’s potential, it is a pleasant surprise in moments like this to catch a glimpse of the artist breaking down the wall of what is (let’s be honest) an all round very similar sounding collection of music. The same can be seen in the fourth collaboration and final track on the record, ‘Wavxxes’, which features the sombre sounding clarinet notes and acoustic guitar work of the multi talented composer Lars Horntveth. The result is a complex amalgamation of instrumentals, layered up and built over a simple dry bass line, which probably the strongest five minutes out of the forty altogether and is something we can really dig our nails into.
An underlying tone of solemnity is omnipresent on ‘E s t a r a’, each track more achingly anguished than the next; whilst also holding an unmistakable glimmer of something close to aspiration or dreaminess in contrast. ‘NY Pt. 2′ actively displays this feeling of longing defined primarily by Teebs’ input, whereas Prefuse 73 who is known for his chopped up psychedelic patterns, adds a subtle hint of something more tangible without inflicting too much of his own style.
There is nothing too surprising about ‘E s t a r a’ but that is arguably exactly what was required and expected of the producer at this stage in his career. There are few inappropriate situations to enjoy the quality of ‘E s t a r a’, an album that would be equally poignant played beneath a thunderstorm at 2am, on a crowded dancefloor or probably most understandably under the sweltering summer sun accompanied by a cold adult beverage.
‘E s t a r a’ is out now on Brainfeed. Buy it here.