Switched On – Dntel – The Seas Trees See (Morr Music)

dntel

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Dntel returns with his first new music in three years, with not one but two albums to offer for release on Morr Music in 2021. Dntel – the modus operandi of Los Angeles producer Jimmy Tamborello – has made intriguing music for 20 years now, enjoying leftfield pop on his early works for Plug Research, and mixing in ambience with subtle doses of hip hop and funk. He is an artist who has never stayed still musically, and this latest burst of creativity sees him taking on the challenge of working with less equipment.

What’s the music like?

As appealing as ever from this source. Tamborello springs a surprise or two, as well, with first track The Lilac And The Apple an interpretation of a folk song recorded by Kate Wolf in 1977. It is an oddly moving experience, especially with the minimal Dntel treatment, which feeds it through a vocoder but still gives it plenty of room.

With the scene set, The Sea Trees See – its title an indication of the subtle Dntel humour and a reluctance to take things too seriously – proceeds at an easy pace with some attractive music. Easy, attractive loops with foreground detail lift the likes of Back Home and Yoga App well above repetitive poolside fodder to music that handsomely repays closer listening. Around the edge of the textures sit woozy sound effects, gentle white noise and snatches of musical phrases that drift in and out of focus, lending a muffled heat haze to tracks like Whimsy. There is some nice storytelling, too, lifting The Man On The Mountain.

Does it all work?

Largely. The lack of rules and encouragement of explorations in sound, alongside the poppier moments, are a good combination. Sitting behind everything is a broad brush of ambience, ensuring the album works particularly well on headphones.

Is it recommended?

It is. Dntel delivers again with the winning mixture of comforting sounds and original exploration, meaning the ease of the familiar rubs up against newer thoughts and tendencies. This is an outdoor album, with an attractive and lasting warmth – as the cover art implies. Dntel’s second opus of this year is destined to be more pop-based, which bodes well for a complementary pair.

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