By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
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By Rachel Watts
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Soft-spoken to a fault, Jimmy Tamborello comes across like some kind of computer nerd who's checking out porn, afraid of waking his parents.
A shy, friendly kind of guy, Tamborello makes music under the name Dntel; he either won't explain the moniker or simply can't find the strength to do so.
"I don't know what the name means," Tamborello says over the phone from a tour stop in Idaho. "After a while, I started saying it was short for 'don't tell,' but it really doesn't have a true meaning. I wanted to find a word that you couldn't attribute meaning to."
Thankfully, finding meaning for Dntel's intriguing mix of dubstep, glitch and electronica doesn't prove as difficult. Touring in support of a pair of EPs, After Parties 1 and 2, Dntel is capable of engaging an audience on several levels.
Too bad Tamborello doesn't agree.
"I am just not good on any instruments," Tamborello says. "Now, the computer programming I can do, but if we ever lose power, I can't play music anymore."
What Tamborello can do, though, is collaborate. Having served as half of the Postal Service, as well as having worked with Bright Eyes, Tamborello has clearly learned his way around a quirky melody. On top of a catchy riff, Tamborello builds a crafty, computer-generated world of blips and scratches. Compositions such as "Soft Alarms," "Flares" and "Aimless" create moods that vary from romantic to robotic.
"I think my music is good for driving in desolate areas," he says.
Of course, he's right. But the guy's self-depreciating manner wears somewhat thin considering that all of Dntel's albums feature clever songs that are programmed and executed perfectly. Not too bad for a guy who started his musical career playing in an emo-core band called Strictly Ballroom.
"Well," Tamborello says sheepishly, "I was always recording electronic music, even in those days."
Tamborello had resigned himself to only making electronic music for a limited audience until an earlier, forgotten collaboration with Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard resulted in the formation of the Postal Service. The duo's lone album to date, Give Up, became a critical and fan favorite — so much so that both Gibbard and Tamborello have become reticent about talking about any future releases.
"I don't know," says Tamborello. "Making another Postal Service record could go either way. At this point, it's more about schedules. I don't like talking about it because it's hard to say anything either way without hinting about something."
Even when pressed, though, Tamborello is as reserved and noncommittal as any slacker computer geek can be.
"It might happen," he says. "Or it might not."