Ardour is one of the most beautiful albums of the year, alternating between trembling lullabies and softly thumping hip-hop daydreams. Teebs, an LA-via-NY producer of Malawian and Barbadian descent, is a member of Flying Lotus's Brainfeeder camp. Closely aligned with Samiyam, TAKE, Daedelus and the like, he makes music in a similar vein reined in by an obsession with the stately. Granted, his music is still centered around those pounding, limiter-breaking beats, but they're kept from disturbing the music's contrived atmosphere by the careful padding he provides.
On Ardour, Teebs takes a potpourri of chimes, rattles and jingles and mixes them in a food processor, sprinkling the diced remains over fragmented beats. His tracks are in constant motion, looping and cycling even if it's not always clear where the loops end and begin anew. Tracks like "Double Fifths" and "Bern Rhythm" seem to magically keep their elements suspended in air as if caught in a manmade wind tunnel, a captivating effect that teases affection and pleasure out of dizzy disorientation.
His tracks are more sketches than compositions, wafting by as transient gusts of fragrant perfumed air. As a result it blurs together, fostering a stoned, dreamlike cohesion. One of the album's few self-contained highlights, "Arthur's Birds" is Ardour's centrepiece, conjuring up a queasy synth melody squeezed through any number of filters, propped up by the clacking of marbles underneath. On the other hand, the brief but dense "While You Doooo" colours its obscured rattling with Eno-calibre euphony, a lovely idea sometimes taken too far, as in the saccharine opener "You've Changed." The latter is where Teebs' preference for the pretty can border on nauseating. Teebs' music is at its best when underlaid by a strong and assertive rhythm, physical jolts that give his flighty compositions much needed structure, lest their airy bodies simply float away. The drum worship of "Autumn Antique" is a refreshingly crisp way to end the album, and drums in "Gordon" play a fascinating role as each hit seems to loosen a cascade of acoustic guitar strums from the track's unseen ceilings.
Ardour is a lovely album that sadly places too much emphasis on the superficial. While there are few recent albums more immediately striking, and while Teebs' sandbox of sounds is different from his contemporaries, it's not that different, albeit uncommonly beautiful. If you feel like letting something wash over you and relax your bodily muscles one by one, you could do worse than Ardour. You might even find yourself dissecting its fascinating intricacies if you can find a way into the labyrinthine sphere pictured on Teebs' gorgeous self-designed artwork.