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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.
Some wrote him off in the same bracket as the sickening dawning of the 'Chillwave Volume One' era which proliferated around 2010-11 like the all-over-print / snapback disease. With artists like Toro Y Moi forcing every kid with a MacBook to "discover themselves, sonically, ya know?" it was all too easy to brush over the fine detail and care taken over Ardour, but its lack of self-contained tracks made it less accessible. This time, Teebs is back with a (effect ridden) 'bang'.
E s t a r a is by no means instantly likeable. Relentlessly fidgety yet calming, meticulously calculating yet somehow simple and reassuring. It's possible to spend hours upon hours without any forming opinions at all, listening to it wobble, fizz and purr almost aimlessly. But in the same light as any enduring romance, you must spend quality time with it before you appreciate its true beauty, and it all clicks. And it will click.
For me, it was the clarity and cohesion somehow expressed within the lush guitar loops and delicate backdrop to 'NY pt. 2' which plunged me into a Buddhist monk worthy state of calm. Together with the 'Piano Days' couplet, the NY tracks find the type of refreshing space The xx have in the past; a welcomed respite from the rich flavours featured earlier in the LP.
They lead seamlessly into the mournful, muddy howls on 'Mondaze' which are carefully sliced and distorted to tie in with its Bhangra percussion. The production begins to feel so dense it's almost tangible. 'Wavxxes' is the closing track and album highlight, beginning with skittering synths which tag team over meaty kicks, before a gradual change of pace sees Lars Horntveth's dampened clarinet tastefully swoons above an acoustic backing awash with sunshine.
Unlike Ardour, numerous individual tracks stand alone as masterpieces. Towards the end of the LP the way Teebs has elegantly spread unusual samples across detailed drums to form a sort of twitching yet subdued ambience is simply stunning. It's as if all the repetitive, pounding loops thrown around earlier in the record have fused together and solved an equation. After you appreciate this it's possible to go back through and notice more and more pleasing elements, such as the thick, throbbing textures running with you through 'View Point' and the complete shift in mood experienced on 'SOTM'.
E s t a r a's real joy is its diversity. There's bleakness sandwiched by glaring optimism, melancholy caked in calm. The same song can plunge you into apathy or insight initiative depending on your mood. Where Ardour was often too heady, this can easily be thrown on in the background. But, if you really want to get geeky then it's a treat to follow each layer ducking and weaving, pondering if melodies are vocal or woodwind.
At just 40 minutes in length it's concise to say the least, but the result is a hearty meal that will subtly introduce you to a new flavour every time you return.
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