Dntel - Life Is Full Of Possibilities
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Dntel
Life Is Full Of Possibilities

If you would have asked me about half a year ago who Jimmy Tamborello was, I wouldn't have known. If you would have asked me about 4 months ago who he was, I could have told you that he was the alter-ego of DNTEL, and that his new album was supposed to be pretty good. Finally, if you would have come up to me about a month ago and asked who he was, I would have told you that he was one of the better American electronic artists in the game right now, and that Life Is Full Of Possibilities was indeed excellent, and at times transcendent.

In all honesty, there haven't been a lot of musicians that have managed to blend electronic music and vocals together in a way that really worked. Although Björk has always had moments of beauty on her albums, she's never quite reached that subtle balance, while other artists like Moby and Aphex Twin have tinkered around with them as well but have ended up coming out either cornball or downright poppy. While that's not really a bad thing in and of itself, DNTEL is unique in that it blends vocals into the mix, yet still retains a very cutting edge feel. While the term "cutting edge" may be well past it's prime, this is music that definitely is not.

One of the reasons that it retains this quality is that for the most part, vocals are hardly ever in the forefront of the tracks. Most of the time, they're filtered and buggered with so much that they indeed do just feel like another element. Nothing is sacred, yet they fall into the tracks in amazing ways. On the opening track, Chris Gunst of the Beachwood Sparks adds vocals, and at the very beginning track, he's acapella while his voice breaks in static and is scattered apart before a shimmering ambience background swirls in and envelops the track before a skittering beat enters in just at the close. Mia Doi Todd (who also lended her talents to the recent Dublab Presents: Freeways release) adds her amazing vocals to the washing layers of "Anywhere Anyone" while Rachel Hayden (formerly of That Dog) appears on "Why I'm So Unhappy." The latter is actually one of the least musically interesting tracks on the disc until elements sort of detach from one another towards the end are given more of a treatment.

Of course, the tracks without vocals hold up well too. "Pillowcase" is a short, claustrophobic track of slurring pulses and dense washes, while "Fear Of Corners" rumbles along with an off-kilter rhythm, while dense layers of sound threaten to drown it out. It's towards the end of the album, though, that things really get clicking. After the quieter beauty on the beginning two-thirds of the release, "Fireworks" mixes up an almost dancey beat with some glitch, while "(This Is) The Dream Of Evan And Chan" again finds vocals in the mix and is quite possibly the best track on the disc. Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie sings lyrics filled with nostalgia while a potent rhythm rumbles behind and melodies mixed with a touch of abrasiveness fill in the rest of the spaces.

The album closes out with the glitched-out guitar track of "Last Songs," and it's by no means a weak track. Less picked-apart sounding than the work off Fennesz's Endless Summer album, it's fresh and beautiful ending to an album that seems to be full of questions. Although I enjoyed this release on the first listen, it's also one that has expanded upon itself nearly each time I hear it. I guess I'll have to revise my year-end list.

rating: 8.510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00