An exquisitely lo-fi RnB disquisition on memory and desire, love and loss.
Paul Lester 2011
How to Dress Well is the recording alias of Tom Krell, a philosophy student who splits his time between Brooklyn and Cologne, Germany. When he’s not writing about Kantian epistemology, he’s listening to RnB, the hi-tech variety ranging chronologically from the late-80s swingbeat era to today’s The-Dream and Drake/Kanye, loving that strand of solemn synthesizer soul that no one has quite got around to terming "keymo" yet, with an unironic vengeance.
And while he’s waiting for his dream to come true – for Kanye to produce his music – he’s created his own 808s & Heartbreak. Love Remains is released by Tri Angle, the label behind releases from Balam Acab and oOoOO, and there is confluence here with America’s "witch house" boys, while the hiss and static deliberately left in the recordings by Krell, presumably to make them sound even more like faded sonic snapshots, suggest a commonality with Europe’s glitch techno and dubstep kids. Really, though, this is something new – lo-fi electronic RnB, ghost-soul muzak with added murk, sung by Krell in an agonised, androgynous falsetto as though from the other side. It’s like hearing R Kelly in hell, or Fleet Foxes if they’d grown up on a diet of Ralph Tresvant and Al B Sure!.
Many of these tracks initially emerged via online EPs, so this is effectively Krell’s first Greatest Hits. The album opens with You Hold the Water and a snippet of dialogue from Todd Haynes' film Safe: "There’s nothing to really worry about aside from being a little run-down." They could be talking about Krell. He sounds ill, which is about right, because this is illwave. Krell is barely there, washed out. On Ready for the World, the melody is swathed in reverb and delay as Krell recalls the titular 80s R&B band through a spectral haze. My Body is a funny title considering how unphysical this music is, a pale, evanescent take on that most robust and passionate of genres, soul.
There are two songs here concerning rain, which makes sense given the sonic drizzle. Some have decried the use of clicks and fuzz, but they’re surely half the point in this exquisite album-length disquisition on memory and desire, love and loss.