It's not easy to put your finger on exactly what's changed in the four years since Los Angeles producer Teebs (aka Mtendere Mandowa) dropped his debut full-length, Ardour. His trademark soft-focus ambient hip-hop sound is still front and centre, but things feel a little less warm, and maybe a little too smooth. Could it be that he's become too adept at production in the meantime, and inadvertently sanded away too much of his earlier work's charming roughness?
An alternate explanation is that he's just in a calmer and more content headspace now, especially considering that Ardour was written and recorded in the immediate aftermath of his father's death. From that perspective, the breezy California vibes and cheerfully sedated mood of Estara seem more deliberate, and the album is unquestionably a great soundtrack for chilling out. It might have fewer surprises and off-kilter oddities than we'd hoped for, but it definitely won't kill your buzz.
Top track: Mondaze