Dntel - After Parties 1 [12-inch] / After Parties 2 [12-inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


After Parties 1 [12-inch] / After Parties 2 [12-inch] (2010)

Sub Pop

Dntel's 2007 effort, Dumb Luck, was more or less a logical reaction to his proper debut, Life Is Full of Possibilities–even if it was six years after the fact. Where Possibilities provided chilling, unnerving electronic indie waves of sound, Dumb Luck offered far more accessible fare and indie pop sensibilities. The man behind the project, Jimmy Tamborello (best known for programming the Postal Service's atmospheres) now returns with a pair of 12" EPs dubbed After Parties, both 1 and 2. If one believes an artist is self-aware enough to consistently react to his own work, then After Parties shouldn't be all that of a surprise to Dntel fans–but it's certainly reasonable to be a bit jarred by it.

After Parties is far more esoteric and experimental than the gentler, generally user-friendly nature of Dumb Luck, and whether this is merely a strange diversion or a blueprint for the next LP is anyone's guess. Something to keep in mind is the total lack of vocals, too. If you were someone who thought The King of Limbs was too ambient, After Parties may not bode well either. But if you wished Radiohead dug even deeper into such electronic ambient spheres on their recent effort, you've come to the right place.

The title track opens 1, developing a playful electronic rhythm and adding wavering bubbles to the musical line until it gives the listener a reprieve about halfway through. Soon that rhythmic line returns, and the eight-minute track eventually picks up a nervous, dancier beat accompaniment that all fades together meticulously until the end. It's definitely a risky opener; ultimately, it feels best as background fare for those Flash-based puzzle games. The smeary in-and-outs of "Lindsey" replicates the effect one gets when they clap their hands over their ears, while closer "Soft Alarm" is another slow fade of echoing pulses, hazy static and natural sounds.

2 is two tracks and about six minutes longer. Opener "Flares" hints at a busier set of songs, and that's true to an extent, as is a generally darker nature. "Flares" has a few more layers, the one puffing its chest the most being a splashy, repetitive cymbal tap (artificial or otherwise). "Peepsie" is carefully lush and stays true to what feels like a futurist dystopian color of the records, with heavily fuzzed-out synths bleating melodic lines here and there in the last minute and change. "Aimless" is creepily upbeat and '80s-centric to some extent while borrowing some of dream pop's electronic familiarities. Seven-minute closer "Leed" hints at John Williams' five-tone figure from Close Encounters of the Third Kind...probably not intentionally, but its eerie warmth is a surprise as it brings the sprawling After Parties to a soft and calming finish.

Though there's plenty of rhythm and sporadic melody at play, much of After Parties feels conducted far too much like mise-en-scène. These are occasionally interesting departures from Dntel, but let's hope Tamborello reigns in his approach at least a bit for the next proper effort.