Techno has always been the cold cousin of house music, so it was with some reluctance that Jimmy Tamborello set out to record, in his own words, “an extra melodic, minimal techno record with some sparse vocals.” The man behind Dntel, The Postal Service, and synth-pop trio Figurine, of course, couldn’t help but inject some heart into Mistake Mistake Mistake Mistake, his premier solo outing as James Figurine. The album’s first two songs, “55566688833,” a hypnotic love song about text messaging (check your phone keypad to translate the title), and “Leftovers,” immediately draw you in. Beneath the latter’s sterile, Aphex Twin-style ambient techno beats—the kind that made Tamborello repeatedly chant what would become the album’s title—is a heart wrenching tale of what-ifs that continues, perhaps in reverse, on “One More Regret.” Tamborello comes off like a Pretty Hate Machine-era Reznor on Zoloft: “Tell me which one of these things could’ve made you stay?” he wonders plaintively. As far as dance music goes, tracks like “Apologies” are as dance-floor-ready as anything being produced by, say, Oakenfold these days. Unfortunately, the purely instrumental tracks don’t fare quite as well, and Postal Service/Rilo Kiley vocalist Jenny Lewis is sadly underused on “You Again.” Searching for something organic? You might have some luck on “Pretend It’s A Race And I’m On Your Side,” which features stuttering, processed sounds that may have at one point been actual instruments, or “All The Way To China,” which features guitar by John Tejada. While the pop songs were laid out on the front lawn of The Postal Service’s Give Up and, to a lesser extent, Figurine’s The Heartfelt, Mistake‘s hooks are hidden under, alternately, crumbly sod and dense layers of AstroTurf (depending on where you look), making it the rare techno album that’s worth digging into.
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