Review Summary: Immersive, Cold, Beautiful.
There’s a moment, wedged in the middle of “Ready for the World”, where Tom Krell lets the shrill sound of a screaming whistle pierce the otherwise innocuous drape of swirling melody that hangs over Love Remains.
In fact, he does it twice, and twice only. But realize this: that those two singular whistles, these bursts of caustic white noise, are perhaps the most remarkable instants to be found etched across the skin of this spellbinding record. There are a few reasons for this. The first is the most general: Krell is astonishingly good at this sort of sonic sculpturing, prying and pulling at his Rn’B sprinkled ambience with a touch so delicate it’s almost as if all he had to do was coax the sounds out of a gem that’s been lying there all along. The second is more specific: just before the whistles make their mark, “Ready for the World” lapses into a split second of silence more deafening than any noise after it, pregnant with a tension so heavy it could cleave the song right in two.
And if anything, the rest of Love Remains
works within this precise swing of the pendulum, left to right and back again, tick tok, tick tok
. And it’s as subtle as that too: a dynamic so barely perceptible, yet with the gravity of time itself… well, at the very least, Krell can make you feel
as though it was. Maybe it’s the voice. Hazy and indistinct, the comparisons to Justin Vernon haven’t been far off, but the Krell’s is less a cry than it is a textured instrument unto itself, laden with soulfully infected falsetto that stretches from ghostly chorus lines to heavy panting – like, actual panting – while straddling the edge of fragility throughout. And make no mistake, Love Remains
is no sook. While the early tracks only hint at what’s to come, by the time the record works its way to “Walking this Dumb”, those with lesser audio equipment will find their guts warbling only at half the severity of their better endowed musical aficionados.
The last person to capture this dark swirl of intensity so effectively was perhaps none other than the enigmatic Burial; but where Burial catered for specific moods – broken streetlamps and gritty urban streets – How To Dress Well takes that mood and abstracts it tenfold, rocketing it into fractal world, more liquid than digital. This, incidentally, also marks the difference between the so-called lo-fi aesthetic and the whateverthehell aesthetic that Love Remains
captures – Yes, most of it was recorded in Krell’s bedroom, and yes, at nearly every point of stress tracks will clip and crackle under the strain. But let’s be clear about this: even if the sound
itself is practically indistinguishable from the slew of lo-fi homebaked acts out there, the musical function
that those fractures play are so far removed that it belies the imagination to even consider Love Remains
as trying to capture the same thing.
There’s no pandering to authenticity here, no appeal to the emotion: Love Remains
doesn’t drag you into its world with any sort of force whatsoever so much as it places
square within it, naked and indifferent. In another universe perhaps, “You Won't Need Me Where I'm Goin” might sound desperate, the title lyric itself being the only clearly decipherable one among a haze of fuzz and bass, but here, it’s cold and immersive, crying out for no one in particular. Even where the Rn’B element is at its most present, at it’s most soulful
, like the pulse driven “Endless Rain” or “Mr. By & By”, it does so only as a montage, detached as a glimpse into what may-have-been. Krell’s genius of course, is to have made it all inescapable
. And perhaps the most heartening thing is to know that in an age saturated by bedroom producers covered with sh
itgaze and post-fu
ck, the best of it can yet inspire.