Release Date: Oct 19, 2018
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Tom Krell has always used noise evocatively, hiding and revealing How to Dress Well's songs with clouds of reverb and distortion to greater and lesser degrees on each album. He follows the relatively crystalline Care with The Anteroom, which brings the experimental side of his music to the fore in a way that hasn't been heard since HTDW's earliest days. On Love Remains, Krell's use of texture only added to the otherworldly longing of his melodies, and the same is true of his fifth album.
Around the time How To Dress Well’s Tom Krell released 2016's 'Care’, he moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of his doctorate, and some observers felt as if they could hear it on the album; it was unabashedly poppy in its sound (Jack Antonoff was among the collaborators) and unashamedly earnest in its approach to lyrical ideas surrounding love, loss and mental health. It suited him down to the ground, but anybody pining for a return to a more experimental approach with 'The Anteroom' is in for some good news. This fifth LP is sharply ambitious and probably most closely mirrors 'Total Loss' in its musical outlook; throughout, there's a kind of sparseness that unites the tracks, although they differ consistently.
Tom Krell's previous album as How To Dress Well, Care, was very poppy in places, and while his falsetto didn't sound bad next to its perky production the sound was more than a little pedestrian. As a corrective, The Anteroom is considerably more abstract, and with help from Joel Ford who co-produced Oneohtrix Point Never's Replica album it shows considerably more range and flows freely between main tracks and interludes. These interludes have two names: Nonkilling and False Skull, the former being beatless ambient vignettes and the latter often incorporating more industrial sounds.
The album's landscape is mapped out in the track listing, where phrases and ideas are sequenced, repeated and reprised: so "Nonkilling 3 | The Anteroom | False Skull" is followed by "A Memory, The Spinning of a Body | Nonkilling 2" - an multidimensional numerical cycle. The sonic approach is mostly abstract and fast-moving: each track skips between moods and ideas 4 or 5 times, recontextualising familiar sounds from R&B and electronica. Even the most straightforwardly song-like tracks are twisted and broken: the melodic trip-hop of "Brutal | False Skull 5" descends into glitching electronics in its final seconds.
How does one contend with the term "blue-eyed soul" when listening to the radio nowadays? Bazzi's "Mine" or something by blackbear always seems to come up; Post Malone is perennial on pop and hip-hop stations. Post is technically a rapper but on "Psycho," he is doing the same slurry crooning as his guest Ty Dolla $ign--who is not a rapper--and the line of what is R&B to a radio programmer continues to be confounding. White guys are not just inhabiting the dirtbag tenderness space built in the early '90s by Jodeci and now dominated in this decade by Bryson Tiller and the Weeknd.