It has been a year now since Tom Krell emerged from the forsaken playground of contemporary R&B as a salutary evening star. Behind the gentle moniker of How To Dress Well, Krell has put together the forgotten patterns of the 1990s to reconfigure them in an unparalleled lo-fi landscape. Currently based in Cologne, Krell divides his time between participating in the post-Kantian discourse and performing extensive bedroom experiments with sound texture and deconstruction.
Although Krell may be denounced for taking the rudimentary principles of song-writing rather lightly, his songs are not devoid of entertaining hooks. In You Hold the water an ostensibly random dialogue seamlessly merges into the ambientish plains of the opening track. Multilayered chanting interweaves with the placid humming of the drum machine, carrying us towards the harmonious distortions of Ready For The World. Pierced with shrill notes of excitement and corroded synths, the lover’s plea blooms above droning percussions.
Other highlights include the recurrent crescendo of My Body, translucent upbeat in Walking This Dumb and fuzzy bassline riffs of You Won’t Need Me Where I’m Goin. Where the ascetic instrumentation flounders, Krell’s exquisite vocals come to rescue. Hence, the intensity of his explorations of the eerie land of hope and longing never abates for more than a moment.
A couple of weaker tracks, including Endless Rain and Mr. By & By appear to be helplessly sunk in underproduction. Drifting feebly among the relics of new jack swing, they fail to convey the same tremendous yearning, leaving the gap between the artist and the listener unabridged. Nonetheless, these lapses do not break the steady flow of the album. On the rising tide of bedroom fidelity, How To Dress Well manages to assemble from it something worthwhile in itself, the joy of introspection.