||In Spanish, the word estar means "to be", but there's more to it than that. More specifically, estar refers to where someone is at - physically or mentally - at a specific moment. Simply put, there's nothing permanent about it, which is a big reason why E s t a r a is the perfect title for the second full-length album from Mtendere Mandowa, better known as Los Angeles-based producer Teebs.
In truth, the LP takes its name from the house where much of the record was created. Although Teebs visited a handful of beautiful studios in the hills of Los Angeles in the process of creating the album, he ultimately kept coming back to his modest bedroom studio and the same Fruity Loops-based set-up that he's been using for years.
So, what exactly has changed on E s t a r a? After all, the new album finds Teebs returning to Flying Lotus' genre-bending Brainfeeder imprint, and the music certainly doesn't represent some kind of sea change in terms of his sound. When it comes down to it though, what's changed is Teebs himself. His first full-length, 2010's Ardour, was an effort that came together in the midst of personal turmoil and the death of his father. In contrast, E s t a r a was created during a period of relative calm, more importantly, the LP encapsulates a time when Teebs - who continues to work steadily as both a producer and a painter - has been making art entirely on his own terms. That freedom has not only strengthened his creative voice, but has also enabled him to craft some of the finest work of his career.
E s t a r a contains plenty of the breezy melodies, rustling rhythms, gauzy atmospherics, and loose ties to hip-hop that have always been present in Teebs' music, but the LP also finds those elements coming together in a bolder, more cohesive fashion than ever before. Whether he's swirling melodic textures on songs like "The Endless" and "View Point", flirting with leftfield pop on collaborative efforts "Holiday" (featuring Jonti) and "Hi Hat" (featuring Populous), looping guitars on "Shoouss Lullaby" and "NY pt. 2" (featuring his Sons of the Morning partner Prefuse 73), or getting pensive on the shuffling "NY pt. 1" and the melancholy "Piano Days", Teebs sounds sharply focused, impeccably nuanced, and spiritually potent.
In the end, E s t a r a is absolutely, undeniably a representation of Teebs, but Teebs as he is right now. He may no longer be the upstart beatmaker that FlyLo once took under his wing, but that doesn't mean that Teebs has shed his past - he's simply evolved from it.
E s t a r a is a remarkable album in its own right, but it's ultimately just the latest step in what has already been an incredibly fruitful musical journey. We can only hope that every chapter of Teebs' story will prove to be this engaging.