This is a warning to Jimmy Tamborello and Ben Gibbard—you may soon be facing a new contender to your as-of-yet unchallenged title as best postal-exchanged music collaboration of the new century. Enter Brooklyn’s The Four Level, an artistic alliance featuring renowned electronic producer Pieter K and singer/songwriter Amy Jacob. Where The Postal Service opted for more reflective indie-electronica on their debut, The Four Level has honed their influence from the darker sounds of The Knife and Björk (circa Post and Homogenic) for their first effort.
Combine the talents of an electronic producer with those of a singer/songwriter and it’s likely to elicit mixed reactions, unless those talents are meticulously nurtured into a cohesive entity. The resulting album, Stars From Aircraft, is a scattershot affair, as such. While songs like “Trepid” pulse with drum and bass undertones, a most notable influence of Mr. K, tracks like “Static” stray nearly into excessive pop-grandiosity, and can probably be safely attributed to Ms. Jacob.
The juxtaposition of more traditional electronic elements with a singer/songwriter aesthetic has a tendency to leave The Four Level often sounding lopsided rather than complementary. Where the aforementioned “Static” is a soaring ballad suited for fans of Death Cab For Cutie, “Trepid” is more likely to please followers of Aphex Twin. The concoction is, however, rather palatable on “Monsters, All,” which starts with an assortment of electronic blips and Jacob’s methodical delivery before the ether lifts and the song elevates into its best Postal Service impersonation.
There is a definite power struggle being waged throughout most of the album, as each collaborator attempts to corral their distinct style. Stars From Aircraft is frontloaded with electronic sounds, sputtering drum beats and an almost transparent sheen, while the latter half shimmers with the sort of intuitive atmospherics that benefit immensely from having a producer in the band. “If I Land” cuts deep like The Knife, a strangely distorted keyboard looming, haunting the background. Over synchronous guitar wailing, Jacob calls through the eerie mist of “Blue Moon.”
In an effort to please different camps in the world of independent music, The Four Level have crafted an album that features moments of cross-over glory, followed by attempts at genre defiance that vary in their success rates. So maybe Jimmy Tamborello and Ben Gibbard don’t have anything to worry about just yet, but given the reliability of our nation’s mail delivery system and the creativity it fosters in time spent waiting, The Four Level may soon be a collaboration to be reckoned with.
Björk – Post
The Knife – Deep Cuts
Death In Vegas – Scorpio Rising