Imagine another reality. Los Angeles is being attacked by a Victorian virus. All of the buildings are starting to age and twist, tracing threatening shapes against the black sky. Horse-drawn carriages and strange steam machines replace the hordes of vehicles roaring down the highway. Halogen lights are now old gas lamps. You no longer see baseball caps, wide jeans, or Vuitton bags; only top hats, velvet capes, and carpetbags. Cigarettes are good, nothing to do with the ammonia sausages that we smoke today. The fog is real, and not a shapeless cloud of pollution that refuses to float up into the atmosphere. Serial killers are real artists, not cannibals who wear their mother’s wig to kill little girls in the shower. You can hear bells ring. In this Victorian Los Angeles located in another dimension, Teebs draws crowds to the theatres, and his name is up in lights in marquees made by hand. He is the Houdini of music: he performs real magic on the stage, feats of sound alchemy that would only make sense in another world. The thing is that Teebs isn’t in the dimension to which he belongs. The workings of the multiverse have set him down, on a whim, in a Los Angeles that has nothing to do with what his scores preach and describe. Our Los Angeles. This must be why “Ardour” sounds as if it had been made in a parallel reality and crossed over the bridge, God knows how. It is Californian instrumental hip hop—of course it is—but not from the California that we know.
Magic, rainy and heady, “Ardour” lives in the emotional shadows and places it’s bets on a cutting-edge electronic music made of nostalgia. The twenty-something Mtendere Mandowa extracts electronic ectoplasm from his Victorian computer and moves us without resorting to cheap sentimentality. He x-rays a California with a toxic sky, empty beaches, gusts of radioactive wind, secret cults, and people watching the storm from the window, oil-lamps in hand. Having risen through the ranks of the group My Hollow Drum and the Red Bull Music Academy –he was in the Barcelona session in 2008– and been taken under the wing of Flying Lotus, this young producer has known how to take the teachings of Dimlite and FlyLo itself to find an escape route in the purest Alice in Wonderland style. And he has forged his own bubble. The breakbeat and melancholy synthesisers of “Autumn Antique” leave you breathless. The lethargic hip hop rhythm and dreamy violins of “Humming Birds” smell like an underworld opium den. The strings in “My Whole Life” are the most lovely, hallucinatory thing I’ve heard in a long time. “Long Distance” is an electro-Gothic dream of soul, layers and layers of synthesisers, and emo ambient, that kind of dream that you never remember when you wake up, however hard you try to. “Felt Tip” is a sightseeing trip down impassable alleys, old doorways to other dimensions, and abandoned laboratories. “Arthur’s Birds” obligates you to hunch over, make some tea, lock your door, and watch the hours tick by. The acoustic guitar and bells of “Bern Rhythm” seem designed to attract lost souls as if they were flies around a spoonful of jam.
Hypnosis. Astral journey. Boundless evasion. “Ardour” is a different album; it is the hidden face of a city of Los Angeles that is more beautiful than ever, under the industrial smoke, in the gas light, the nocturnal mist, with the echo of cobblestones and the tears of it’s spectres. Welcome.
Teebs - Humming Birds Teebs - Bound Ball