EXPLODED DRAWING AT FUSEBOX
Hypnotic. Warm. Organic. Tumbling. Pastoral. Ramshackle. Blissful. Expansive. These are just some of the words that have been used to describe the work of Mtendere Mandowa, better known as Teebs.
A producer, a painter, and a key member of Brainfeeder clan, recent years have seen Teebs surge toward the top of the so-called “beat scene”, and though his affiliation with Flying Lotus certainly has something to do with his ascent, it’s ultimately the music – a billowing brand of beautifully off-kilter, hip-hop-colored beat construction – that has set Mandowa apart from what has become an increasingly crowded field of like-mind producers.
Teebs now makes his home in Northeast Los Angeles, but the 26-year-old producer wasn’t always an Angeleno. Born in the Bronx, Mandowa’s childhood also included time spent in Georgia and Hartford, Connecticut before his family switched coasts, stopping in Monterey Park, California before settling into the cozy LA suburb of Chino Hills. It was there that Teebs first truly took shape as an artist; he began painting in 2005 and started making music shortly thereafter, both by himself and as part of a collective known as My Hollow Drum.
It didn’t take long for people to take notice. Around this time, Teebs linked up with online radio stronghold Dublab, and quickly saw his network increase exponentially. In 2008, he was invited to come to Barcelona and participate in that year’s edition of the annual Red Bull Music Academy. This prompted fellow RBMA alum Flying Lotus to look him up; the two actually met at the now-legendary Low End Theory party in Los Angeles, and within six months, Teebs was living in the same apartment complex as FlyLo and sharing a spot with fellow LA beatmaker Samiyam. Watching those two work fueled his own creative impulses, and he began assembling what would eventually become Ardour, his first full-length album.
Ardour may have properly put Teebs on the electronic music map, but the somber release – the LP was partially inspired by the death of his father, which took place in the middle of the record’s genesis – was just one of his many noteworthy efforts. He teamed up with fellow LA beatmakers Daedelus and Jeremiah Jae for split releases; he collaborated with UK producer Jackhigh (who now goes by BNJMN) on an intriguing EP called The Tropics and later joined forces with leftfield beat pioneer Prefuse 73 for the Sons of the Morning project and the Speak Soon, Volume One EP; Brainfeeder offered up the explorative and vaguely defined Collections mini-album; and the label arm of My Hollow Drum dropped limited runs of both Ardour B-Sides and the Cecilia Tapes Collection, the later of which collected music pieces that originally soundtracked one of Teebs’ art exhibitions. He’s also been busy on the road, frequently touring the globe, often in the company of his fellow Brainfeeder affiliates.
Despite all of this activity, on a personal level, the last couple of years have been a time of relative calm for Teebs. It was during this time that he put together E s t a r a, his second proper full-length. As opposed to the turmoil that accompanied the creation of Ardour, his new album is an effort inspired by his life as it stands now, and represents a time when Teebs has finally been able to make music completely on his own terms. The record takes its name from the house where much of the music was created, and it finds Teebs filling his sonic canvasses with the same kind of lush, textured sounds he’s always used; the key difference is that he’s now operating with a renewed sense of purpose and a streamlined musical narrative. The techniques haven’t changed, but Teebs’ mastery of them certainly has. In short, he’s grown as an artist, and continues to confidently forge his own path forward.