This time one decade ago, Dntel (Jimmy Tamborello) quietly entered the public’s radar and subsequently turned our notions of electronic music upside down, becoming a poster boy for experimentation and collaboration. Through a cast of guests, Tamborello combined the separate worlds of indie rock and electronica, and inspired so much of what is now so common in music. Broken Bells would most likely not exist without the groundwork laid by Dntel. A cameo from Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard on 2001′s Life Is Full Of Possibilities would result in the formation of one last decade’s most successful and likewise influential indie acts, The Postal Service. It seemed with Tamborello that innovation was inborn. It is with a measure of sadness then that the Dntel project reemerges after several years of silence with a behind the times release that finds Tamborello running to keep up with contemporary electronica.
The first entirely original Dntel work since 2007′s Dumb Luck, After Parties 1 and 2 are two EPs in a completely new direction, intended to be listened to in succession. Vocals are absent and the collaborator list sits at zero with Tamborello the sole creative force facing the challenge of impressing without a support system. After Parties 1 is the shorter of the two releases, containing three tracks: “After Parties”, “Lindsay” and “Soft Alarm”. The jaunty “After Parties” shows promise with a bouncing intro that fades smoothly into a blissful expanse. “Lindsay” turns up the notch with a blurred soup of whip and pit-er-pat synth sounds. “Soft Alarm” falters in its attempt at minimalism, not offering enough interest in the context of the preceding tracks. After Parties 2 takes cues off “Soft Alarm”, five quieter selections that fail to measure up to the creativity of “After Parties” or “Lindsay”. “Flares” is more lullaby and crackle and “Aimless” earns its name, woozy, pale and generally lackluster. The subtle basslines on “Peepsie” and “Leed” provide the best moments of After Parties 2, little reminders of Dntel’s ability to surprise.
Had these two EPs come out ten years ago, they would have been a groundbreaking pairing. But they’re too little too late from a musician who built a name by off innovation. Buried amongst the Gold Pandas and Pantha Du Princes of contemporary electronica, After Parties 1 and 2 are easily forgotten.