Reminiscing about a vacation you took ten years ago to a sandy beach with washed out-colours and the scent of salt in the air, everyone wearing cut off shorts and running in the surf? Ninja Tune’s second release of Los Angeles-based producer Teebs (Mtendere Mandowa) is exactly that. The album is hazy, reflective, and meditative. Its ethos is all summers past. There’s nothing processed or screamingly radical here. No surprise that the album itself was largely recorded and produced in Teebs’ bedroom studio on a Fruity Loops set up. The effect is melancholic and nostalgic.
Songs generally start softly with gentle, slow chords, tingling bells or chimes looped through. Percussive beats of varying complexities get added to most songs, adding a layer of depth. On the whole, I found the songs hypnotic and ideal as a soundtrack for writing, reading, painting, or thinking. There’s something very “background” about the whole thing and I had an easier time imagining the television and radio producers who would use it in their clips. That said, the music held enough tension that when the CD stopped, I immediately noticed. This is an album that creeps into one’s consciousness.
Did any tracks stand out? That’s hard to say. The Endless is a bit dreamy, with a repetitive, echo-y synth that draws in a percussion beat about halfway through the track. NPR filler segment. View Point picks up a beat in a The Beach sort of way. Opening chords combine with chimes, while the beat takes on a Europeans on a Holiday in the South Asia-Pacific rhythm.
My assessment of the album cemented with Holiday (feat Jonti), a track that continues to up-play the tropical lushness overtly. Birds chirp and water splashes. Jonti’s voice is mixed in with the music so that it seems more like an overheard conversation heard while strolling around a palm paradise with flowers. The whole song seems distant, with a faraway, almost photographic quality to it.
Shoouss Lullaby again makes use of the gentle sounds of jingling chimes and loops. A pulsing guitair-esque sound arrives about a minute in and persists as more tracks are layered. The song would be completely airy-fairy if not for the sudden breaks when the percussives come in and give it some back.
SOTM uses phonograph static , again pointing to a time long ago, a time that no one really had but wishes they did. The track is very evocative, prodding the memory., as it builds, peaks, and declines.
The remaining tracks of the album work together as a unit. I drifted as I listened, almost a New Agey kind of spiritual moment, I suppose. Woodblocks and acoustic guitar were in there somewhere. When the album stopped, I snapped back to the silent room. Whoa. A pretty enchantment. Where was I?
All in all, this an artist’s album in the sense that it is perfect to work to. There are no wake-up slaps or body shaking booty-movers. It’s ambient music for the sensitive side.