Review Summary: Cook, Clean, Pay The Rent
Recently, I discovered that Teebs had released new music in 2019. Late to the game, as usual, I put on the first track and immediately scurried over to type 'Teebs' in the Sputnikmusic search bar. No review, just one soundoff: “How are you all asleep on this.” My reply? “I have awoken from my Slumber and it feels excellent.” Come to find out, I was unintentionally right on the money, as the music video for opener “Atoms Song” begins with just that: Teebs waking up.
He turns on the lights, brushes his teeth, and walks around his house like a ghost. Soon we see that another version of Teebs has been watching himself from the camera's point of view, and this version of Teebs becomes the subject just as the one you were previously watching moves out of the frame. It is a haunting impression of the slog of human existence, or as Teebs put it on Collections 01: “Cook, Clean, Pay The Rent.” Eventually, he musters the energy to go outdoors, leaving the flowers and house plants of the interior for a more expansive experience. I suppose one could call it a walkabout.
Specters in the deep / Come on, give me a sign / Lichens come to me / Come show which way to go
Groggy Teebs makes his way through various nature scenes, which reflect a bigger picture of the subject matter that has influenced his art since he hit the scene. Meanwhile, there's not a kick drum to be found, just shuffling rhythms, a distant, filtered electric guitar, and of course, that warm, familiar synthesizer ambling along. It really sounds like waking up and letting the world in. As the landscapes shift, the tune picks up slightly, teasing some beautiful violin lines. Rising, falling, rising again. Suddenly, the video starts to cut back and forth between the outdoors and his apartment. This is subtle at first, like a double exposure photograph, then more jarring, as another party enters the narrative: homies driving to Teebs' place to chill.
This seems to threaten the integrity of his idyllic journey. Dipping his hand into a body of water, the shot cuts to the same hand underneath a sink faucet in his bathroom. Couch-slouched, Teebs misses calls and texts from the soon-to-arrive guests at his apartment, which is much more cramped than the spacious home we were welcomed to earlier. It's obvious he doesn't want to be here, but feels obligated. Trapped by the responsibilities of modern life that keep pulling him away from nature, the place where he feels inspired, he must make due and find a balance.
His buddies enter, and the nature dream disappears for good. Teebs answers a greeting of “you doin' alright?” with a morose “yeah, I'm alright...” to which the friend replies, “man, we gotta get you outta the house!” The camera pans over to a stained glass version of the album's cover art, which sits above a small music space adorned with house plants. Here
is the record. This
is the liminal space that Teebs occupies. Concept established. Building blocks identified. We are afoot.
As the album continues, the listener may notice this music is subtly different than Ardour and Estara. The haze that marked earlier productions has lifted ever so slightly. The drums are less sidechained than before. This still sounds like Teebs, but it's clearer, somehow more concerned with
reality than escaping it. The lyrics reflect this too, variously dealing with the human condition: dark vs light, man vs nature, the permanence of impermanence. Teebs has always been able to make more with less, but he is perhaps at his most minimal here, preferring that guest vocalists drift atop the compositions explaining themselves, and, by extension, the ruminations of the producer who set the uniquely introspective tone of this release.
While there are many, many
different artists featured on the album, Teebs handles the volume gracefully. It never feels overdone or ham-fisted, always to the benefit of the album rather than to one artist or another. Balance
. There's even a couple hip-hop tunes, one of which features rapper Pink Siifu providing insight into possibly the biggest influence on the record.
Sunset, daughter callin' / New breath, sound fallin' / Keep callin', keep callin'
On Ardour, Teebs coped with grief and the death of his father, but on Anicca, he reflects on birth, and all the pride, pressure, and soul-searching that comes along with being
a father. There are no genuinely dark or eerie moments to be found here. I wouldn't say outright happy, but they're lighter, less burdened by loss, more marked by an exhausted perseverance to appreciate the good things in life while integrating current self with former selves, warts and all.
Why you care what other people are thinking? / They don't got nothing to do with our feelings / We all projecting our inner demons / We all protecting our inner reasons
The music video for “Atoms Song” contains one more important detail: a small television of sorts, which is in many of the shots before Teebs first leaves the house. The screen is playing back what the viewer is watching, but from Teebs' perspective, which adds another layer of discomfort to his monotony. For example, when he stands over the sink in one of the first few shots, the television screen shows his point of view, looking down at the sink. But on the walkabout, this television is gone. Teebs is free to explore without having to watch himself go through the motions, quite literally. He looks at his reflection in the water, but takes time to inspect it, filled with wonder at the possibility of seeing himself in nature
, growing and changing, as all things must do if they are to survive. The flower-headed characters from his earlier art pieces, then, are no longer necessary—they have been replaced by the (literal) reflection of Teebs' body in nature itself, demonstrating a shift in the artist's expression of self away from fantasy and towards reality.
Grounded, unfiltered experience can be both terrifying and awe-inspiring, and the ambivalence toward this shift is audible throughout Anicca. Teebs is not perfect, and doesn't have it all figured out yet (gosh, isn't that relatable), but he does have questions. Who am I? What am I made of? Can I step in the same river twice? While not claiming to have the answers, he is ready to share the music he's been creating during this journey of reflection and growth. What a treat.
Carry on, my friend / The road you rode has no end / Just leave the past, forget / But don't forget what they did for you