Anicca is the new offering by Bronx born producer, visual artist and soundscape architect Mtendere Mandowa better known by his stage name Teebs. The artist’s affiliation with Flying Lotus’ label Brainfeeder in the greater scheme of things is a seal of approval nearly unmatched within the world of electronic music and Anicca is yet another organic and blissful release to add to the legendary labels list of fantastic albums. My first foray into the absolutely mind-bending soundscapes Teebs creates came in the form of a 2014 Boiler Room set released soon after the release of his previous album Estara. This set in truth perfectly encapsulated the artist and his sound. So let me explain. It wasn’t really even Boiler Room as I know it. Here he was on the decks in a room somewhere buried deep in London, to the side of him a collection of just six people hanging around and absolutely mesmerised as his set cascaded through the complex song structures his signature lo-fi beat scene masterpieces are known for. It was as intimate a 40-minute set as you’ll really see, which brings me to Anicca.
Photograph by Brent Waterworth
Album opener “Atoms Song” is exactly what fans of Teebs would expect. What is seemingly a pretty simplistic spacey instrumental, is constantly added to; never lingering too long before he switches it up ever so slightly. All while building to a beautifully angelic climax. In truth, it’s vintage Teebs with soundscapes so entrancingly tumbling and blissful, so wonderful it’s almost sickening. “Shells“ is arguably the most traditionally lo-fi sounding song the album offers, with a neat little piano sample being looped and built with some really lo-fi type bops on the drum. “Mirror Memory” undoubtedly stand out as one of the most sonically rich cuts from the work. It’s irregular drum structure beautifully complemented by an incredible violin sample that contrasts the harsher drums in such a sonically pleasing manner. This is due to the way Teebs has layered what sounds like multiple of the same violin sample to transform them into a larger than life sounding entity.
Photograph by Brent Waterworth
“Marcel“ and “Slumber” are unquestionably the most dreamy cuts on the album, although I personally feel like each respective track is approached in a completely different way. “Marcel’s” rich harp melody reminds me more of the classic Edvard Grieg “Morning Mood” composition so often used in the waking up scene of films and cartoons. “Slumber”, on the other hand, has far more of a witching hour feel, a calming soundscape to listen to late at night in the dark. One can’t ignore the features on the album as well, for better or worse. From my experience, I do prefer the cuts which have no features as it feels like Teebs has more freedom to produce in a non-traditional manner. In truth, most of the features don’t contribute much vocals to the songs they feature on anyway but there are certainly some stand out performances. “Black Dove” featuring Sudan Archives is one such cut, as her vocals add so much to the overall feel of the song. On the flip side, the feature by daydream Masi on “Universe” detracts more than it adds to the track. There’s just something about the delivery that sounds really pop-inspired causing sonic cognitive dissonance as it just doesn’t fit the really vast and spacey beat.
All in all and slight criticisms aside, Anicca is an absolutely entrancing listen. It is without a doubt not for everyone. It is a slow, sensitive and spacey listen which some may find sleepy. There are no build-ups to massive cascading drops, as Teebs favours a far more subtle and meticulous approach. However, once those subtle beat switches and tone shifts resonate the true value of Anicca shines through.