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DNTEL

The best-known solo project of Jimmy Tamborello, Dntel's music bridges indie rock and experimental techno with expressive melodies, childlike wonder and exploration, and meticulous attention to detail. Active since 1994, the project's catalog encompasses abrasive drill'n'bass experiments, glitchy electro-pop, and ambient abstractions, but Dntel first made an impact with 2001's critically acclaimed Life Is Full of Possibilities, which merged inventive, glitchy production with indie rock sincerity. One of the album's highlights, "(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan," featured Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard and served as inspiration for Tamborello and Gibbard's enormously successful side project the Postal Service, whose platinum-selling 2003 album Give Up influenced countless electronic pop acts. Dntel continued in a similar collaboration-heavy direction with Dumb Luck (2007) and Aimlessness (2012). However, he returned to instrumental compositions with later works such as the techno-influenced Human Voice (2014), and with his pair of 2021 releases, the ambient, folky The Seas Trees See and the crystalline electro pop of Away, Tamborello reaffirmed the scope and creativity of Dntel's music. Tamborello began making music in 1989 as a junior high school student, creating songs on the drum machine, sequencer, keyboard and eight-track recorder that his songwriter and jazz musician father bought for him. In 1994, he released a self-titled ambient full-length under the name Antihouse. While attending Los Angeles-based Loyola Marymount University, he was a DJ, music director, and engineer at college radio station KXLU. Starting in 1994, he played bass in a band called Strictly Ballroom (who were often described as "Enocore") in addition to forming synth pop group Figurine, as well as recording solo material as Dntel. The project's first release was Early Works for Me If It Works for You, issued by Phthalo in 1998. A collection of demos from 1994 to 1997, its songs blended wistful melodies with skittering beats, resembling a lo-fi, American counterpart to British IDM artists like µ-ziq and Autechre. In 2000, Dntel contributed a track to the Plug Research compilation Voices in My Lunchbox, and released Anywhere Anyone on the label later in the year. Something Always Goes Wrong, a collection of recordings dating back to 1994, appeared in 2001. However, Dntel's other 2001 release, the Plug Research-issued Life Is Full of Possibilities, proved to be the project's breakthrough. Applying experimental production techniques and abstract textures to songs sung by guest artists including Mia Doi Todd, Rachel Haden (that dog.), Chris Gunst (Beachwood Sparks), and others, the album helped set the standard for indie electronic music. The set's most well-received song was the Gibbard-sung "(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan," which was released as a single and became a crossover club hit, thanks in part to a remix by techno producer Superpitcher. In 2002, Plug released an EP with the song and further remixes by Erlend Øye, Barbara Morgenstern, Lali Puna, and others. The song's success led to a proper collaboration between Gibbard and Tamborello, titled the Postal Service, as the two musicians wrote songs by sending each other DAT tapes through the mail. Give Up was issued by Sub Pop in 2003, and ended up being the label's most successful release since Nirvana's Bleach, attaining platinum status. This was partly due to the single "Such Great Heights," which was used in several advertisements and television programs, and covered by numerous artists, most memorably by Iron & Wine on the soundtrack for the 2004 film Garden State. Despite Give Up's success, Tamborello and Gibbard didn't jump at the opportunity to record a follow-up. For Tamborello, that included programming work on Bright Eyes' 2004 single "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)," which reached number two on Billboard's U.S. Singles Chart. That year, he also teamed with Plug Research owner Allen Avanessian as the experimental hip-hop duo Headset for the album Spacesettings. Two years later, Tamborello fused indie pop with minimal techno on Mistake Mistake Mistake Mistake, a solo effort as James Figurine. During this time, as Dntel he also remixed songs for Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, and Grizzly Bear. Dntel returned with 2007's Sub Pop-issued Dumb Luck, which included returning guest Mia Doi Todd as well as Ed Droste (Grizzly Bear), Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley), Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), and others. In 2009, Phthalo issued Early Works for Me If It Works for You II, a triple-CD compiling Dntel's previous releases for the label, as well as an additional disc of material recorded between 1998 and 2003. Remix EP Early Works, Later Versions followed in 2010, while Sub Pop released two instrumental Dntel EPs, After Parties I and II, as well as an expanded tenth anniversary reissue of Life Is Full of Possibilities in 2011. Aimlessness arrived on DJ Koze's Pampa Records in 2012, featuring guest appearances from Nite Jewel and Baths. The Postal Service reunited in 2013; a tenth anniversary reissue of Give Up sported a disc of rarities as well as two newly recorded songs with Jenny Lewis, and the group embarked on an extensive world tour before permanently disbanding in August. Tamborello continued to work as Dntel, with Human Voice appearing on Leaving Records in 2014. Devoid of guest appearances, the album was slightly more dancefloor-oriented than past Dntel releases, while retaining the project's familiar melodic sense. Following a four-year absence, Dntel returned in 2018 with the beatless Hate in My Heart. In 2021, Dntel surfaced on Morr Music with the folk-tinged The Seas Trees See. After contributing to Todd's August remix album Ten Views of Music Life, in September Tamborello returned with Away, a set of pop-influenced songs featuring his own processed vocals.
© Paul Simpson & Heather Phares /TiVo
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