In between his 2010 debut album Ardour and its 2014 follow-up Estara, Teebs' Mtendere Mandowa spent a little time collaborating on music with friends like Prefuse 73, and a lot of time on his painting. It's hard to say whether it was the time spent honing his visual art that gives his first album's gorgeous sonics more shape and structure on Estara, but it's undeniable that Teebs' music feels more dynamic and disciplined. Even more than before, his tracks are like sound paintings: on songs like "SOTM," carefully layered samples and beats pop in and out, advance and recede, and circle each other in calming, yet active, ways. Teebs emphasizes those beats on Estara, which helps pin down the sounds that seemed in danger of floating away on his debut. However, the unexpected and playful ways he uses percussion operate more like temporary landings for his melodies rather than lifelines. Crisply busy drums frame "View Point"'s watercolor sounds, but the unpredictable, asymmetrical beats on "Shoouss Lullaby" and "Hi Hat" are more decorative than driving. Estara's songs are also more developed than Ardour's tantalizing snippets. "Holiday"'s almost-pop uses Teebs' signature sparkling percussion, birdsong, and Jonti's airy vocals to craft a softly sunny atmosphere that's like a spring day viewed through a window draped with gauzy curtains; "Piano Days" and its companion "Piano Months" are testaments to the enduring power of a beautiful piano melody bedecked with copious amounts of reverb. Likewise, Teebs expands his emotional palette to include more varied and distinctive moods that still feel related and organic; the way "NY, Pt. 2"'s nocturnal cityscape melts into the lush exotica of "Mondaze" is one of Estara's subtlest but most entrancing highlights. Even with all of this growth, Teebs' music remains just as lovely and soothing as it was on Ardour, particularly on the shimmering opening track "The Endless" and "NY, Pt. 1." Instead, his newfound control on Estara makes the flowing sounds and uplifting moods that distinguish him within the beat music scene all the more expressive.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares