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Early Works for Me if it Works for You II

Phthalo/Plug Research

Jun 04, 2009 Dntel Bookmark and Share

Known to casual indie-rock fans as, “That guy from The Postal Service who isn’t Ben Gibbard,” Jimmy Tamborello (a.k.a. Dntel) has been a fixture on the electronica scene for nearly a decade and a half. In 1994, inspired by Aphex Twin, µ-ziq, and Warp Records, Tamborello compiled his first collection of songs onto a cassette that would go on to become Something Always Goes Wrong. However, things went wrong, and it wasn’t until 1998 that Something Always Goes Wrong and sophomore effort Early Works For Me If It Works For You found a home on Phthalo records. These albums, along with a third disc of previously unreleased material, have been re-mastered and re-released to create Early Works for Me if it Works for You II. Largely vocal-free and completely guest-free, the collection, while lacking the sophistication of his later work, documents and demonstrates Tamborello’s developing trademark style that, even in its infancy, holds together without the assistance of high-profile collaborations.

Something Always Goes Wrong
, is an impressive introduction. Featuring longer ambient songs with recurring themes, Tamborello’s early ambitions are underscored by epic titles like “In Which Our Hero Is Decapitated By the Evil King.” While playing more like a noisier Boards of Canada collection than the electro-pop-friendly project Dntel would evolve into with 2007’s Dumb Luck, the album features hints of the widescreen romanticism paired with a white noise sheen that Tamborello would later go on to perfect with 2001’s Life is Full of Possibilities.

More experimental and scattershot than their predecessor, discs one and two of Early Works For Me if It Works For You will most likely appeal more to preexisting Dntel fans. Here, Tamborello’s songs and song-snippets act as a technical testing ground, featuring racing shifts between the soothing, and the abrasive. As with the case of “Termites in the Bathtub,” this auditory whiplash often occurs over the course of a single track, making for a listening experience that, while often jarring, is never boring.

Disc two, at 18 tracks, might have benefited from a tighter edit. However, amidst its scattershot sequencing, with folktronic sketches like “Paul’s Guitar” (featuring Paul Larson of The Minor Canon), buttressed against glitch-filled experiments like “Incomplete,” it is clear that stylistically, Dntel, as we know it, is falling into place. Recorded in and around the time of Life is Full of Possibilities, disc two features the same warm sonic tones and an increasingly subtle interplay between organic and mechanical elements—as is the case with “Darker Earlier,” a fully realized song that could have replaced the less progressive “Pillowcase” on Life Is Full of Possibilities’ final track list. While a sprawling collection, it is the inclusion of these hidden gems that help make Early Works for Me if it Works for You II such an intriguing peak into the evolution of an artist who continues to be a forerunner of the electro-indie movement. (www.dntelmusic.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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January 10th 2011

Dntel is Jimmy Tamborello’s electronic alias. That does not make the difference radical. The songs here are also presented in layers. Bursts of drum machines base the songs. Simple, mournful synths drone the songs’ melodies in short stabs. Dissonance builds barely noticeably in the background. Counterpoint melodies sometimes lie on top; sometimes they replace the original melodies. The elements drift in and out.
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