Review : Dntel - Aimlessness
PitchforkIn a 2006 interview with the author Dave Tompkins, the R&B producer Timbaland claimed he "changed the sound of radio." It's simple but true: Music before Timbaland sounded different from music after him. You could say the same thing about Dntel, albeit on a smaller scale. In 2001, he released Life Is Full of Possibilities, an album that reconciled twinkly, romantic indie pop with electronic glitch. A couple of years later, he collaborated with Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard on an album called Give Up, credited to the Postal Service. By then, plenty of artists had brought electronics into the bedroom-- they called it IDM: "intelligent dance music." Give Up wasn't intelligent. Actually, it was sort of dumb. But in dumbness lie hot, basic, and universal emotions. Boards of Canada were Ph.Ds by comparison; the Postal Service was for first kisses.
This was Dntel's Timbaland moment: If you knew how to listen, you could hear the Postal Service and their imitators everywhere, and the more your heard their sound, the less you could really call it theirs-- it seemed to belong to the ether. It was crisp, friendly, and progressive, but not too progressive; too progressive is frightening. It was everything you ever wanted in a last-minute holiday sale/corporate shipping service/laserjet printer.
Times changed; Dntel, less so. Aimlessness, his third album of new material, arrives without context, scene, or convenient narrative. Like Possibilities, the album is a mix of instrumental and collaborations with guest vocalists. In 2001, this meant artists like Gibbard, the dude from Beachwood Sparks, and Mia Doi Todd; now it means Baths and Nite Jewel-- probably the closest kin Dntel has in the contemporary landscape....full text
InyourspeakersJames Tamborello's work as Dntel has long toed the line between ambient and orchestral indie-pop. 2001's Life is Full of Possibilities and 2007's Dumb Luck both distinguished themselves as entirely self-contained examples of his vision of pop music, the former in an orchestral-sample based context, the latter emphasizing guest vocalists giving his music an oddly consistently emotionally close feel. With his latest work, Aimlessness, set to be released June 5th on Pampa, James Tamborello has once again partially redefined his musical world as one defined almost wholly by his beats, rather than the emotionality of his samples or familiarity of his guests.
While the guest vocalists he came to be associated with due to his work with Ben Gibbard on 2001's Give Up as the Postal Service and Dumb Luck remain, they have taken a bit of a backseat to the sounds Dntel is making on his own. “Still,” which utilizes a Baths guest vocal, shows development in its utilization of its guest by dispensing with the “showcasing” effect evident on previous Dntel collaborations with such people as Grizzly Bear on 2007's “To A Fault.” The difference lies in the fact that “To A Fault” was practically a Grizzly Bear song with beats, while “Still” almost buries the Baths guest vocal under its warm, pulsating synth textures. “Santa Ana Winds” does the same with its Nite Jewel vocal spot, slightly covering up her voice in the mix in a way which somehow illuminates the world contained in the song rather than obscuring the performance....full text
ClatlAfter an album of folky, organic electro (2007's Dumb Luck), Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello returned to his roots with the clubby late-night collection After Parties 1 and 2. Though Tamborello is given to collaboration — he's best known to the general public for being one half of radio-indie titans the Postal Service — he's most effective when working alone. Aimlessness is a logical progression, a stratospheric record wherein pop melody and ecstatic electronica coexist brilliantly. Like Caribou's Swim, a fair comparison in both sound and movement, Aimlessness builds on its creator's past but is implausibly fresh. "Bright Night" features sleepy Boards of Canada-style synths offset by a funky-fluid bass underworld; "Santa Ana Winds," which features vocals courtesy of Nite Jewel's Ramona Gonzalez, tenderly evokes the sweltering, destructive nature of the song's namesake....full text
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