Unearthed: How To Dress Well— Total Loss
Posted in Unearthed
"I would want to be in an iTunes playlist with 'X's & O's' by Jeremih, a couple Terry Riley songs, a Mount Eerie song and maybe a super emotional rap song like 'Fuck This Industry' by Waka Flocka," says Tom Krell in his interview with The Fader. There's probably not too many recording artists around with those kind of sprawling aspirations --even fewer would be able to live up to them. Krell makes the unlikely possible on his second LP as How To Dress Well. Total Loss manages to pull together the manifold influences that play into the philosophy student's oftentimes concept-heavy music, creating a kind of time-defying, symphonic, lo-fi RnBass that is nothing short of mesmerizing.
It is important to note the steps it took for Krell to get him where he is on Total Loss. His debut Love Remains showed traces of his songwriting-talent and sonic vision, his most recent Just Once EP was an ambitious orchestral project that lifted the grainy veil from over his hushed sketches. With the help of xx producer Rodaidh McDonald, Krell now feeds off his earlier approaches while exploring new paths and adding the nuances we've been waiting to hear from How To Dress Well. Whereas Love Remains had played like a mixtape --which, admitedly lent it some of its nonchalant charm --and the Just Once EP was just too sterile to produce much of an emotional reponse, Total Loss is a far-reaching, perfectly timed journey through sound and sorrow.
The beautifully orchestrated "World I Need You, Won't Be Without You (Proem)" instrumental could not find a better place on the album than after the bare-boned, upbeat, acoustic-leaning house-morph "& It Was U." On "Struggle," Krell throws in some footwork-elements, right before squeezing in his biggest slice of RnB-cheese with "How Many?" --only to unleash perhaps his most touching composition on us, the vocal- and string-driven desperation cry "Talking to You." In other parts we find traces of backyard-cemetery Timbaland ("Cold Nite"), trap-style adlibbing ("Ocean Floor for Everything") and even a breeze of ambient beat-screwing reminiscent of Clams Casino, which also contains Krell's most personal moment lyrically when he mourns over lost loved ones in the middle of the song ("Set It Right").
This is where Krell succeeds: he appropriates contrasting elements out of sheer passion and/or instinct and translates them into his own musical language --a language that is crackly, delicate, honest, smart without being stuck-up. Total Loss is deeply sad, yet triumphantly purgative. It is the work of an artist who has learned to embrace grief as a coping-mechanism, comfortable in his own skin, and who has found a way musically to connect the dots of his psyche. Krell's sophomore LP finds all the potential of his How To Dress Well project converted from promise to tangibility.