Honestly, I can’t tell you a thing about Teebs’ debut, Ardour. I know I’ve played it through on multiple occasions over the last year or so. Its songs have emitted from earbuds, on computer speakers, and in studios. But Ardour is a victim of the L.A. beat scene’s collective, possibly unconscious movement toward the erosion of memory.
It’s been happening for as long as Flying Lotus has been active, but as the years have gone on and artists have connected and shared with one another, the only really clear thing one can say about Brainfeeder or Alpha Pup and their ilk is that the more overtly electro-oriented Lorn or the glitchy Tokimonsta or the young wanderings of Nosaj Thing all blur in a pleasantly hazy string of past head-nods with the passage of time. Even lesser-loved joints like Thundercat’s heaping serving of noodles are vaguely-but-warmly remembered with months between listens.
I imagine we’ll feel the same way about Collections 01 in a year (or less), which is too bad — these “mini collections of ideas” are better as a whole than anything I’ve heard from L.A. in the last two years. It’s possible lowered expectations might have something to do with it. “The vibe I want people to be sent off with,” says Mtendere Mandowa himself, “is a feeling of going out and buying some kind of rare library record they always wanted and not a ‘new album/EP.’” The reach of this concept is that it’s a parallel Teebs, sounds from a side project Mandowa suggests doesn’t need the validation of official releases. He’s thinking like the painter he is here, imagining these sketches as works of art in their own right, even if a Statement is absent.
These things all work in his favor — I came in expecting what I found, and was pleasantly surprised by that. It isn’t another Ardour or something as ambitious as Cosmogramma or the next step for L.A. It is a very direct, very intimate half-hour of songs. The fidelity is incredibly warm, there’s vinyl hiss all over (appropriately overcoming closer “Yellow More New”), and harp samples from Rebekah Raff feature throughout. The Ardour track “While You Doooo” is given a welcome extension and added flourish. Airy vocals on “Cook, Clean, Pay the Rent (New House Version)” and “Pretty Poly” fit the mood perfectly.
The abbreviated run-time and incredible levity of Collections 01 (a harshly conscious title, by the way) makes it feel as though you’re listening to a dream. In that sense, then, Mandowa is doing himself and the rep of his cohorts no favors — this is the best recent example of sleep amnesia I’ve heard. We have something like five dreams per night on average and we’re lucky if we can recall parts of even one of them unless we write them down. I have this review to remember the exact details of Collections 01 in a year (or more), but without it, I hear snippets of “Pretty Poly” and pleasantly hazy past head-nods. In this context, that’s as clear a success as you’re likely to find.