Dntel: Human Voice

It’s probably time to stop measuring Jimmy Tamborello’s work as Dntel against the meter of the Postal Service—not to mention Life Is Full of Possibilities, the LA-based producer’s breakout solo record and catalyst for his auspicious team up with Ben Gibbard. Certainly, his subsequent output as Dntel reflects as much; 2007’s Dumb Luck was an awkward shadow of Possibilities at best, and five years later, Aimlessness proved that Tamborello’s interest in vocal-centric glitch-pop singles had all but given way to macro views of the drowsy electronics hiccuping inside them. His latest full-length continues to tread similar terrain while eschewing proper guest vocals altogether, and yet tethers its central theme to an evident misnomer in its title, Human Voice.

It’s unsurprising that this album’s title is so literal: Dumb Luck was a direct reaction to Tamborello stumbling into a goldmine with the Postal Service, and the connotations of Aimlessness served both the half-decade gap between releases and its music’s meandering arrangements. So by that logic, Human Voice plays like a purging of the titular baggage Dntel has carried in his arsenal since 2001—it’s no coincidence that the first “vocal” sound we hear is from the chintzy Casio SK-1 preset which gives the album and opening track their name. There are no real voices until the third track, when the piano-wrapped footwork experiments of “If I Stay a Minute” reach a faint crescendo, and even then its all backwards half-syllables and sonorant incidentals. “Foraya” does the same thing with a slo-mo loop over skipping house beats and Dntel’s typically twitchy, twittering synth lines, sounding not unlike an unfinished Give Up demo. There’s not one actual lyric to be found on Human Voice‘s eight productions, and that’s totally fine.

It could be assumed that Tamborello wrote an album of strictly instrumental electronic music as an attempt to reclaim Dntel’s musical identity from that giddy, over-fed elephant that follows him onto every release, and for the most part he has. The tender pads and modest harmonies of “Fringes of Focus (Instrumental)”  are unmistakably Dntel, and the misty-eyed and circuit-bent closer “Ashby” is blissfully pure early aughts Clicks & Cuts fare with heavy emotional undertones, which is essentially what Possibilities‘ non-vocal tracks were extrapolating from in 2001. Admittedly, it seems strange to call Human Voice a return to form, but “Bay Loop” reappropriating “Suddenly Is Sooner Than You Think”‘s simple harmonium notes couldn’t sound any less accidental in the song’s sparse, bleary arrangement. By shedding the weight of his past accolades, Tamborello’s given himself enough space to return to the music of his less-remembered successes. Human Voice gently nudges him back into the spotlight to speak his mind alone, and even if his voice isn’t the most exciting and innovative one in today’s electronic music landscape, it is unmistakably his own.

from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1odA8QN