Dntel - Aimlessness
For a while it seemed like Jimmy Tamborello, aka Dntel, was sitting aboard a rocket to the stratosphere. He was going to be a star. He worked on a US number one single, Bright Eyes' 'Take It Easy (Love Nothing)', and collaborated with members of Grizzly Bear, Rilo Kiley and Death Cab For Cutie. That latter connection, of course, turned into The Postal Service, a project which sold enough records for Tamborello to buy a bloody spaceship himself.
Things went oddly quiet after that. The turbo-hyped second Postal Service record got lost in the mail, and Dntel himself - minus a couple of EPs and some re-releases - only put out one album over the entire next decade.
Which brings us to this latest full-length. It's immediately clear, though, from the title, that this isn't an attempt to soundtrack the next M&Ms advert. This is Aimlessness.
It's a standard electronica trick to string up a thread, throughout an entire song, of a heartbeat kick drum and soft accompaniment. Tamborello uses it frequently, but uses it well. It lets him fill the remaining empty space with all sorts of echoey samples and murky atmospheres. They drift slowly through the air, never rushing. The mood is relaxed, like everything in the so-called 'chillwave' genre that sprung up while Dntel weren't looking.
Vocals, where they are any, are similarly blurry. Tamborello purposefully restricts their influence on his songs. On 'Santa Ana Winds', featuring Nite Jewel's Ramona Gonzalez, he could have let the words slide into focus. He could have emphasised the beat, turning the track into pumping dancefloor pop. But he didn't.
Once you notice this, you notice the rest of the pop potential. 'Jitters', the perkiest track here, could have been a Postal Service song. 'Still' could have had as much impact as anything on Bath's lauded 2010 debut Cerulean.
It never happens. And while there's nothing wrong with making chillwave, there is an awful lot of it. And Tamborello's good at pop; he's proved that. He could stop supressing that side of his music and get on board that rocket. Instead, Dntel have decided to be aimless, and wander wherever they please.