How To Dress Well How To Dress WellLove Remains
Obsessed with being a pop singer in the best Justin Timberlake style, debut artist Tom Krell can already boast of having achieved a lot. At the very least, he has become a vital figure when it comes to analysing the framework of hypnagogia. The best thing about his project How To Dress Well, besides awesome songs, is that it gives a lot of clues about what it is, where the genre comes from, and where it’s going—questions that are becoming increasingly difficult to answer. Below, we’ll try to explain why. For the moment, let’s focus on the fascinating (read “mysterious”) figure of Krell; he explains that one day, tired of being in hardcore and black metal bands when he was in high school, he started to “hate rock.” That must have happened around 2004, when the New York translator who lives in Cologne left the guitar and threw himself into what he had always wanted to do: write according to his own particular vision of pop, R&B according to the grammar of drone and ambient.
Guarding his privacy as possessively as almost all glo-fi producers, Krell doesn’t like to associate himself with his artistic alias. It’s hard to find pictures of him, and to contrast information about his life. He fantasises about being the greatest pop vocalist, but he hides behind his compositions. He understands and packages music as something referential, manipulating his songs with prophylaxis, separating himself from them as he approaches them. Unlike some of his current favourite artists, like Kanye West or The-Dream, he doesn’t use the achievements of HTDW to channel his personality. Totally contrary to their shining productions, Krell rips the guts out of low fidelity and smears them with a dirty, obscurantist aesthetic. What’s so adorable, then? Well, the thing is that the work doesn’t stagnate in the sordid; in the purest Genet style, it finds beauty in the “wrong” way. This captures your attention right from his magnetic covers, and the clearest example of it is found in the video clip of “Lover’s Start”, overwhelming loveliness in the hands of the impossible-to-find film “Franz” directed by Jacques Brel.
As grotesque as he is coquettish, Krell processes noises recorded by chance, slowing his own voice down to create others, and dressing it all up with samples of unconnected monsters like Coil, Debussy, Michael Jackson, Ulver and Blackstreet. Although it sounds blurred, a variant of chill-wave cooked up with perversion, precisely this season, his formula couldn’t be more appealing. Like distant relatives such as Dirty Projectors, jj or The xx, he starts from urban, R&B roots to take the hypnagogia label to another scene that is about to explode, the witch-house defended by closer cousins like Salem ( “Walking this Dumb”). But let’s not get carried away by references and names. The degree of abstraction in HTDW is predominant; nevertheless, the order and constancy of the work are equally important. Among other triumphs, our man has already earned himself the medal for being one of the most applied producers of the season: since last October, he has put no less than seven EPs on his blog. The best of the material is set out now on this captivating title.
“Love Remains” stinks of latex. It’s a fetish, the hidden face of a dream that was too pretty to be true until now. The bastard son conceived in the underworld of the lo-fi scene, we are looking at a title that corrupts the pleasure that serene hypnagogic music gave us, like a venereal disease. You need only notice the idea that inspired “Ready for the World”: the cries of a child filtered through the cracks in the floor while listening to the neighbour below having a fight with a boyfriend. The scene is Krell himself. There is nobody better than him for defining his sound, that abject mixture of Arthur Russell, Burial, A.R. Kane and Current 93 , whose blurry lines he blames on technological limitations and not having enough cash to properly embrace hi-fi. It doesn’t matter. In fact, perhaps HTDW shouldn’t go much further in that direction. In itself, “Love Remains” already grants the dream-pop revival absolute permission to open the channels of expression that it feels like, however inscrutable they might seem.
We’re looking at something new, different, and very modern. Beyond what you can find in his EPs, our mouths should be full enough with songs like “You Won’t Need Me Where I’m Goin” , “Date of Birth” or the hypnotic “Decisions” and “Can’t See my own Face”, based respectively on passages of Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. The strange artefact is continually inspiring, and marks a goal for Lefse Records, the label of Neon Indian and promising debutants like Dominant Legs or Houses , where Krell now reigns like a Machiavellian prince. Let us surrender ourselves to the advent: the project has just debuted live, and it’s halo of mystery still shines. We stand before the nightmare to dream in the coming winter nights, and Krell has the opportunity to become what he always wanted to be. Now is the moment for someone to tell him that dreams come true. His might become a reality even sooner than he imagines. Cristian Rodríguez