April 5, 2002

Ed's Underground

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This album, released late last year, could be one of the best debuts by an electronic artist in a long time. Not that DNTEL brings anything particularly new to the IDM genre — the entire album trades in the sort of cut-up sounds that have led record reviewers to make “click” the most popular word in describing electronic music. What sets Life is Full of Possibilities apart from its peers is its somewhat unusual (for IDM) reliance on guest vocalists, who are responsible for most of the album’s standout moments.

The Beachwood Sparks’ Chris Gunst sings the opener “Umbrella,” on which the stunning image “you can turn the city upside down/ like an umbrella/ but it won’t keep you dry” is repeated over a rain of cymbals and a slow ambient synth wash. Quirky singer-songwriter Mia Doi Todd turns in a great vocal on “Anywhere Anyone,” her foreign-sounding lilt right at home amid DNTEL’s warm atmospheric touches.

The high point of the album comes with “(This is) The Dream of Evan and Chan,” a collaboration with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. Gibbard’s boyish vocals, full of surreal images like “your eyelashes tickled my neck with every nervous blink,” fit well amid the uptempo beats and soaring melody. After hearing this, you can’t help but get excited about the full-album collaboration that the duo is currently working on.

Though the vocal tracks are far and away the best songs here, DNTEL’s instrumentals are also worthy of note. The closer “Last Songs” is a pastoral piece with strummed guitars and strings blending with electronic percussion, much like Mouse on Mars’ experiments with live instruments. “Fear of Corners” focuses on glitchy drums and stuttered rhythms.

DNTEL draws well from his influences, but what he lacks in originality he makes up for with the pure emotion and beauty of his music.

Archived article by Ed Howard