Before Jimmy Tamborello started collaborating on music through the mail with Ben Gibbard for what would become the early-2000s crossover success called The Postal Service, he was already hard at work on his own as Dntel. The dreamy textures and glitchy beats of his 2001 masterstroke Life Is Full of Possibilities paved the way for the indie-tronica of the Postal Service as well as droves of other laptop-wielding indie kids who followed suit. Tamborello worked notoriously slowly in the years after his initial breakthroughs, resurfacing in 2007 with second proper record, Dumb Luck, followed by a series of miscellanea collections over the next several years. Aimlessness works as the third "official" Dntel record, though the listless and often inconsistent flow of the album bears some similarities to this bits-and-pieces feel of his early works collections. Like its predecessors, Aimlessness sets a backdrop of glowing ambient waves and textures with gentle, child-like melodies and the occasional guest vocals of an indie micro-celeb. This time around, likeminded indie-electro artists Nite Jewel and Baths make cameos, joining the ranks of Connor Oberst, Grizzly Bear, and of course Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard. Nite Jewel's guest spot on the beach-blanket bounce of "Santa Anna Winds" is one of the strongest moments on the album. Tamborello gets a little deeper into experimentation with beats here, exploring washed-out sidechain boom on "Still," fragmented, new-agey vocal samples and pitch-shifted tones on "Retracer," and cut-up edits of live drums on the buzzingly eerie "Trudge." Tracks like "Jitters" or "Puma," with their lightly glitched beats and softly anthemic keyboard lines, would fit in nicely on any of the earlier Dntel albums, but seem a little incomplete in the context of Aimlessness. Likewise, the inclusion of two somewhat random remixes near the album's close adds to a sense of disjointedness. There's a wandering feeling to Aimlessness which could suggest the album's title comes from its creative process. Where earlier albums seemed to be meticulously crafted soundtracks to strange dream worlds, Aimlessness lacks the cohesion or attention to detail of those productions, opting instead for a soup of loosely pieced ideas, many of which feel moved on from more than worked over. This change can be refreshing coming from the pristine Dntel work of past, but might leave some fans scratching their heads or searching a little harder than usual for their favorite tracks.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas
feat: Popol Vuh