How to Dress Well

The Anteroom

Domino

Dec 03, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Consistently releasing an album every two years since 2010, How to Dress Well (Tom Krell) might be an R&B star. Albeit, an icon that has a tough time pulling both legs out of the murky underground. And Krell is better for ithis gliding electronic music is both big and small, coasting between ear holes like a log floating on choppy water. It's not too heavy, and it's not boring. Sometimes, How to Dress Well's elegance just wades in open space; Krell longs for hope as he sings. Now with five full-lengths, How to Dress Well has an interesting niche.

By definition, an anteroom is a small outer room that is connected to another room; it is often used as a waiting room for guests. In How to Dress Well's case, The Anteroom is a depressive place full of metallic noise, pain, skittering beats, sticky melodies, and Krell's wide range of vocals. Comparably, listening to The Anteroom via headphones and through loudspeakers exposes a difference. Sitting on a hardwood floor between two Panasonic speakers made for a much more intense and aggressive intake of The Anteroom versus laying in bed under the covers with headphones. The only explanation for why might lie in the emotional weight of Krell's music. Depending on personal mood-and this has been the case for most of HTDW's albums-the edgy R&B can hit different vibes at different times. It could be as simple as being tired or wide awake.

Over Krell's 10-year journey, he's carried the brutal-beautiful dynamic well. Lyrically, it's a sad sack, as "there's no goal/there's no god/break my skull/rip it off" from Anteroom's opening track proves. But the electronic music is pristine, all neo-lasers and avant-echo. Spending time with How to Dress Well (especially with 2014's "What Is This Heart?," one of the better albums of that year) is the equivalent of sitting at a table with Krell and staring him in the face without blinking for an hour. Feelings are happening.

There's recurring material (mostly dark) throughout The Anteroom. The song titles "Nonkilling" (1, 3, 13, 2, and 6) and "False Skull" (7, 1, 5, and 12) appear in no order; "no goals," "no god," skull breaking, and rotting are in the lyrics multiple times. For unknown reasons, Krell's life was crashing down during the creation of The Anteroom, and it is not hard to tell: "the color inside of the fucking;" "the Earth is a vacant boat;" "will the night reclaim the death that life stole from it?;" "guilt came way before any debt;" "a dead child is no occasion for a songwhere did I go wrong?;" "you've wanted death to dissolve your aching flesh;" and so on and so forth in Krell's high register and serrated beats. How to Dress Well has never sounded more dejected, but maybe he hasn't been this invigorated, either.

Despite being "trapped in a grief coextensive with life," Krell might be reborn as an artist, revolutionized by his early, more radical work (2010 debut Love Remains and 2012's Total Loss, way before he was a Domino guy). The Anteroom has influential traces in the right places: Andy Stott ("False Skull 7"), Aphex Twin ("Vacant Boat"), Michael Jackson ("A Memory, The Spinning Body | Nonkilling 2"), and The National ("Love Means Taking Action"). A little while back, How to Dress Well was collaborating with Jack Antonoff, playing large venues that aren't really suited for music this tough. Here, Krell realized that a head is just a skull. And he takes that skull, inserts a cold, tin ball and bounces it around as an act of love. (www.howtodresswell.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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