The first 30 minutes of Tom Krell’s set at Sleeping Village felt like being totally enveloped by The Anteroom. Krell, who performs as How to Dress Well, released the expansive Anteroom in October, and it was a significant departure from his previous two outings. Both Care — produced in part by in-demand producer Jack Antonoff — and 2014’s What is This Heart?, veered perhaps too far into pop territory, the former failing to reach the levels of Pitchfork Best New Music acclaim as Total Loss (2012) and Love Remains (2010). But all of Krell’s catalog helped inform The Anteroom, a return to the spare, industrial stylings of his experimental electronic early work.
The former Chicagoan (he resides in Los Angeles now) opened with jarring, aggressive industrial noise, paired with an equally spastic but visually arresting video showcasing surreal imagery and color-changing shapes that morphed and mutated. It was The Anteroom – an often very cold and dark record – come to life in hauntingly beautiful fashion. On his albums, Krell, who holds a Master’s degree in philosophy from The New School, has frequently written of deep loneliness, depression, and suicide. Where The Anteroom differs from an album about these same topics (like Love Remains) though, is the glimmer of light at the end; not on the other side, but still in this world. Strange as it may sound, it made the first half hour of uninterrupted songs feel like a warm hug.
After the first of three “acts” had completed, Krell explained how nervous he was to be back in front of his friends and family, and then proceeded to do a tight 5 minutes of stand-up, telling a story about opening for Depeche Mode in Europe to a crowd that truly did not care. He then stopped and asked: “Does anyone have any questions?”
The Anteroom is out now on Domino Recordings.
Opening for How to Dress Well was Cincinnati’s JSPH (“Joseph”), a lawyer turned R&B soul/singer in the vein of D’Angelo.