Jimmy Tamborello likes to take his time. Thirteen years after starting to work under the Dntel moniker and almost six years after releasing his last Dntel full-length, Life is Full of Possibilities (Plug Research), he has painstakingly built and birthed Dumb Luck, an album five years in the making.
Thick with Tamborello’s signature electronic washes and genius beat placement, Dumb Luck is an album lyrically as much about human distance as connection. With vocal contributions from friends Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley), Edward Droste (Grizzly Bear), Valerie Trebeljahr and Markus Acher (Lali Puna), Mia Doi Todd, Grant Olsen and Sonya Westcott (Arthur & Yu), Andrew Broder (Fog), Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) and Christopher and Jennifer Gunst (Mystic Chords of Memory), the organic instrumentation by Chris Hathwell (drummer, Moving Units) and Paul Larson (guitarist, The Minor Canon) is manipulated, chopped and pasted amidst Tamborello’s skittish beats, house clicks, organ washes and dreamily pixelated symphonies. The result is at once understatedly epic, ethereal and concrete.
Like Mistake Mistake Mistake Mistake (Plug Research), his 2006 release under the name James Figurine, and The Postal Service’s 2003 release Give Up, Tamborello meticulously labored over each element of his bit-crushed compositions in his LA home studio. Fueled by a short attention span, his distaste for working on any one project for extended periods of time meant that this was, like most worthwhile things, a process fraught with redefinition and constant change.
After all, producing, engineering and songwriting initially started out as pre-teen after-school fun for Tamborello, whose early interests were breakdancing music and ‘80s techno pop (and later the sonic tampering of Skinny Puppy and Aphex Twin). In the mid-to-late ‘90s, he played in the post-hardcore band Strictly Ballroom and satisfied his ‘80s techno pop appetite with the (still active) Figurine he also played stints in So-Cal pop groups Further and The Tyde. The myriad of friends Tamborello made along the way informed the collaborative element of Dntel; each vocal is viewed as another instrument in the arsenal, helping to create a warm masterwork that is uniquely his.
This is Dntel’s first full-length with Sub Pop.