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Reviews

How To Dress Well
Love Remains Michael Dix , October 13th, 2010 10:28

Tom Krell is a Denver native who splits his time between Brooklyn and Berlin, where he spends his days translating weighty German philosophy tomes, and the music he makes under the How To Dress Well moniker certainly paints a picture of one serious young man. With a voice that invites comparison to the likes of Antony Hegarty and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, these songs are simultaneously mournful and uplifting, with a gentle intensity bordering on religious reverence. Perhaps surprisingly, though, Krell has revealed that his first love is old-skool R&B, and it's that influence - channeled through production techniques like looping his own vocal samples - that sets him apart from his more austere peers.

Love Remains features seventeen songs cherry-picked from the numerous EPs Krell has released on his blog over the past year, reportedly polished up, although the reworking is barely noticeable. The signature HTDW sound features little more than Krell's voice, multi-tracked and reverbed to high heaven, to resemble anything from angelic choirs to harsh feedback. Occasionally, non-organic elements drift into the mix; 'You Won't Need Me Where I'm Going' bears evidence of a strummed guitar, and a couple of numbers are based around keyboard motifs. A handful of tracks towards the album's end feature basic drum loops, but in the main tracks are propelled by means as rudimentary as stomping feet, fists on tables or even Krell's human beat-boxing.

With the vocals bathed in so much fuzz and echo, it's often impossible to distinguish any lyrics, but perhaps that's the point. With his voice creating such broad and imaginative drawn maps of sound, Love Remains is a record to get lost in. As for the much talked-about R&B influence, aside from the odd stolen melody (the Beyonce lift in 'Can't See My Own Face') and some heavily disguised (read: likely uncleared) sample material, it's only really evident in the pulsing grooves generated by the looped sound-beds. What does come through is Krell's ability to both acknowledge and illuminate the dark times he is currently standing at the edge of. Like sunlight pouring through stained glass windows, Love Remains shines with the romantic optimism its title suggests.

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