Simon Jay Catling
, November 15th, 2011 10:49
The press release that accompanied Teebs' 2010 debut Ardour went something like this: A young Mtendere Mandowa originally fell into his canvas and musical art after breaking his leg during a skateboarding accident, days on days of apartment-bound boredom giving way to concrete replications of the wanderings of his mind - formed with first the paint brush and then the sampler. With the eventual release of Ardour – a record that began while the 24 year-old was in a similar situation of impasse, jobless and thus stuck at home, only to step away from it when his father died of a terminal illness – it was easy to make the leap of imagination and picture the compact, two minute intricacies that made up the eighteen tracks as separate meanderings of a hyperactive mind, small journeys that grew from unplanned starting points.
It's perhaps no surprise then that, with such an apparent organic development to his sound, Teebs has chosen to drop Collections 01 at short notice, as though a snapshot into an ever revolving creative reel as opposed to a thought out considered and edited release. And he has been busy - clearly - refining, furthering and bringing things in anew, so that even if the emotive core of these latest tracks remains largely similar to Ardour in their sense of sleepily unfurling immersion, then the tools and templates he's used to create them are clearly in transition and, at points, suggest a real artistic furthering.
Far and away the most impressive thing about this set is the way in which Mandowa has used the two collaborators that are included; both in the way he allows harpist Rebekah Raff to play the central cog in 'Verbena Tea,' and also in the way he completely breaks down the brashness of composer and fellow Brainfeeder artist Austin Peralta in 'LSP', the pianist's sporadic keys hidden under gentle waves of amalgamated crackle and hum. 'Verbena Tea' is particularly sumptuous - Raff of course has history of delicately slicing into IDM's more ambient use of hip-hop and jazz, notably pulling apart Flying Lotus' recurring nucleus of Los Angeles and Cosmogramma cameo 'Auntie's Harp,' and billowing it out into the droning opulence that stretches to six minutes on 2009's L.A EP 3x3. Though here she eventually finds herself surrounded by faded bright drones and fumbling, soft-edged percussive stops, its her skittering harp that governs. Teebs initially completely withdraws and lets her tinctured tones frolic alone, as though watching on like an enchanted moth to flame, before shaking himself from his reverie and joining in.
Elsewhere things have advanced less obviously, certainly the likes of 'Pretty Polly' and 'Jahara' would happily coalesce into Ardour' rich textures, and 'While You Dooooo' is merely an extension of a previously released cut of the same name, its trills prodded and nuanced a little more through its sustained fade out. In this re-working lies the briefest of windows into the meticulous effort Teebs clearly puts into his work. Yes, the overriding feel is that of freely growing ideas and thought, but once these chrysalises are out into the open they're there to return to should their creator see a chance to tweak and enhance; not – I don't think – out of a obsessive compulsive sense of not being able to let go of a track, but rather like a loving craftsman poring over his artefact. Only on final track 'Yellow More New' does he seem relatively content to let the loop unfold relatively untouched, a subtle rising and falling in dynamics the only embellishments on it.
If this is Teebs offering a glimpse into where he's at creatively during this moment in time then his progression is an exciting one indeed; some parts of Collections 01 show more expansion than others, and at times it does come across as more a collection of tracks, lacking the flow of Ardour all-encompassing atmosphere. However, if the producer continues to drop these additional bundles – and he's stated his intentions are to do so – and they maintain such quality, then a year or two down the line we could be looking at one of the very finest artists to come out of the US. You might argue that on occasion here he's already there.