The latest signing to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label talks about his debut album, “Ardour,” and how he began making his own music.
Flying Lotus seems to be a man that can do no wrong at the moment. His latest album, “Cosmogramma,” was met with resounding praise from critics across the globe and his new EP, “Pattern + Gridworld,” looks set to enjoy the same success. In addition to his personal prominence at present, FlyLo’s Brainfeeder label is enjoying similar notoriety due to some inspired signings that are taking hip hop production to dizzying heights. His latest offering, Teebs, is likely to increase the LA label’s popularity even further.
Teebs, real name Mtendere Mandowa, is a 23-year-old Californian beat maker who is about to unleash his inspired debut album, “Ardour,” this month. The elegant piano flourishes and spellbinding harps are closer to the works of Caribou and Bonobo than they are to the works of fellow label mates and beat purveyors Gaslamp Killer and Lorn. This is an album so understated and mystifying that label owner Flying Lotus refers to it as “like an island vacation. The way ‘Avatar’ looks.” Radio 1 DJ Mary Anne Hobbs has been heaping praise upon it during her weekly show, calling it “a unique and tender magic.”
The Chino Hills native began producing his own music after he tore his Achilles tendon during a skateboarding accident. Due to the fact that he was not physically able to pursue one of his passions, he simply decided to replace it with another. “I was out for half a year and just made music and art during that time,” says Mandowa. “That’s when I just got stuck, since I got the same feeling I did when I was skating.”
Soon, Teebs’ creations took on a life of their own and resulted in the producer making regular trips to Los Angeles to perform at Low End Theory, the experimental hip hop haven that has produced the likes of Daedelus and Shlohmo. “Low End was the Mecca,” advises the young producer. “I think it still is for a lot of artists coming up in the LA area. It’s freedom in the purest form. Anything goes there as long as it has its own honest feeling to it.”
It didn’t take long before Flying Lotus became aware of Teebs’ talents and the pair forged a friendship through their similar philosophies about what hip hop should music could be. Says Mandowa, “After a few visits to his old place in the valley and a beat CD that I passed over to him, Lotus just texted me and it read something like, ‘So whatsup, will you join us?’”
This seems like a fairly informal way to score a record deal, but Teebs’ attitude in general tends to give the impression that he takes everything in his stride and tries not to force anything too much. This may just have worked in his favour as his debut album, named after his preferred digital audio workstation, easily ranks as one of the most ambitious releases on Brainfeeder to date.
Despite the fact that Teebs’ first album sounds like a focused collection of works that were meticulously threaded together, he is happy to confess that none of it was intentional. “It’s definitely just a collection of tunes that I pulled together after I was asked to make a record,” confesses the 23-year-old. “I never thought my music would get pressed or that I would ever really put stuff out seriously until I got on Brainfeeder. It was a strange feeling like, ‘Oh I need to make this work as a single record now.’”
“Ardour” is out on October 18 via Brainfeeder.
Profile by David McNamara