Posted on June 1st, 2012 (2:01 pm) by Mark Schiffer

James 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.

If the songs with vocals were considered to be pop (which they debatably are), then the album could be described as alternating between song-based and texture-based. However, when placed in the world of modern pop music, few of the vocal guest spots truly would considered memorable pieces of music. There is little, for example, as strong as 2001's “This is the Dream of Evan and Chan,” but that doesn't seem to be the point. Such instrumental tracks as the jaunty, piano-based “Puma” bring the world of electronic music into the potential mainstream. They create their own musical rules, while still being engaging and enjoyable for the average listener. When placed in the context of the instrumental tracks, the vocal ones are seen very clearly as being part of a whole.

Jimmy Tamborello has shed the hyper-dramatic tone he began to become associated with when he collaborated with Ben Gibbard. Although most of his music has thus far been based in an electronic context, his habit of working with such people as, for example, Conor Oberst, has led to a rather bizarre association with mainstream indie-pop in the semi-public sphere. Aimlessness, with its grounding in a more obviously less song-based mode, may do something to offset just that. As pleasant as they were, such songs as, going back to the Conor Oberst collaboration, “Breakfast in Bed” weren't breaking too much ground in the realm of indie electronica, instead somewhat treading water in the realm of pop.

Aimlessness presents us with a very individual vision of electronic pop music, one which isn't tied to traditional verse-chorus conventions, and doesn't seem to fall back as much on their vocal contributions as one might describe Dumb Luck as doing. Instead, the vocals serve more to add texture to Jimmy Tamborello's vision of what electronic pop music can be. Dntel's goal is to break new ground, in as enjoyable and memorable a manner as possible. With Aimlessness, he has succeeded.

Track List:
1. waitingfortherest II
2. Jitters
3. Still
4. My Orphaned Son
5. Bright Night
6. Retracer
7. Puma
8. Santa Ana Winds
9. Trudge
10. Jitters (Geotic mix)
11. Doc (Dntel mix)
12. Paper Landscape

Dntel, Aimlessness, Pampa
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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