In any given genre, an artist faces the risk of upsetting the balance between maintaining a particular sound and progressing beyond the point of simply repeating a faithful formula. Electronic music, particularly instrumental work, is dealt a heavier blow from this dilemma, considering that the only `voices’ heard are programmed or sampled. Thus, when an artist is progressive enough to consider each album an expansion point — growing, enhancing or perhaps diminishing the scope of their sound, there is high probability of backlash.
Dntel’s 2012 release Aimlessness is, in many ways, the opposite of 2007’s Dumb Luck. While Dumb Luck continued the upfront, pop feel of Jimmy Tamborello’s work with The Postal Service, Aimlessness takes that same pop sensibility and funnels it through a subdued lens, only vaguely reminiscent of his work on Give Up. However, that’s not to say that these tracks are carbon copies of any of Tamborello’s work, Dntel or otherwise. While Give Up is undoubtedly a classic, the juxtaposition of glitch and ambience here seems less forced than before. In fact, I found myself treating this album much like a jazz album — sitting back with a glass of wine and letting the hidden intricacies of each track guide me through a journey of free thought. And since there are no blunt or forward lyrics on most of these tracks, where that journey goes is really up to the listener’s interpretation.
However, this very same change in pace that proves intriguing also runs the risk of alienating some of those who prefer Tamborello at his most accessible and pop-oriented. And if online reactions are any indicator, this is definitely the correct assessment. However, the disappointment or rejection of others is often a side effect of one’s own artistic growth. Aimlessness is a beautiful, if passive, journey through electronic pop landscapes, and a genre twist I’d love to hear more of.
Stream: Dntel – “Santa Ana Winds”