How to Dress Well
The Anteroom



by Finn Baker USER (43 Reviews)
October 23rd, 2018 | 7 replies

Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Artificial emotions.

When you look at the artwork for The Anteroom, the new outing from American creative mind Tom Krell (How To Dress Well) what do you see? It is certainly intricate and purposefully so. Completely monochrome, it still looks vivid with waves of light coating the whole piece. Personally, I see a face. A visage that just happens to be there, one that forms out of the ether to surprise you. It is as if a computer was told to reproduce what it thought a human face could look like, and this image was created. That is not far off from what the music sounds like, either.

The Anteroom certainly achieves what it sets out to do. Many elements of techno were used to construct the bases that hold up Krell's haunting, yet inviting voice. While the beats are creative sonically, do they hold up when analyzing them for real passion? Judging by Humans Disguised As Animals, the song that begins the entire album, that does not seem correct. It contains a meager kick drum, slow arpeggios caked in unnecessary distortion, and pitch-shifted vocals. All of these are stylistic choices that have unfortunately become commonplace in these techno-esque variations of R&B. Nonkilling 3 | The Anteroom | False Skull 1 utilizes these tropes through all seven minutes of its runtime. It does attempt to surprise the listener with an energetic breakdown in the last two minutes, but it spoils itself by faking an outro just before that starts. Predictability plagues this album.

It is not every song on The Anteroom that chooses to do this. July 13 No Hope No Pain is also a hair below seven minutes, but it remains exciting for the entire duration. Vocals are shifted, but some of them scatter throughout the stereo field, and others are blended into the instrumental itself. This song also stands as an example of spoken word, which provides a respite for someone who may be growing weary of the same singing on every track. Krell's poetry is an intriguing way to go about songwriting, even if some of the phrases are a bit immature. Other examples of attempting to force the listener's attention are painfully obvious, with tracks like Vacant Boat having a seemingly random, loud noise be tossed into the introduction. Just as you're about to fall asleep, it raps on your skull, keeping you alert until it ends and the next track repeats itself.

The Anteroom contains the same figures that go into crafting any ambient techno piece. There are steady rhythms and traditionally beautiful chords aplenty. Problems start to arise when one is searching for anything cohesive: this beat does not match that atmospheric tone, or these melodies do not sync up with Krell's vocal stylings. The sounds are all here, but something went wrong during the game of Mix-n-Match. Akin to the abstract melting head that dons the album cover, the music itself sounds like the results of a computer being fed the work of 100 different artists. All of their pulsating rhythms and mild glitching compiled, it is then given the command to 'do that.' While it is enjoyable, I do not hear conviction in these songs, and that is where the human element disappears.

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user ratings (23)

Comments:Add a Comment 
October 23rd 2018


Album Rating: 2.5

This was meant to be written for a publication called FEISTY ( but the owner is trying to build a base of their own material first. I'm not entirely sure that this review is good, and in fact it doesn't completely mirror my own, personal thoughts on the album. What do you guys think?

Staff Reviewer
October 23rd 2018


Album Rating: 3.5

i always like your reviews, you look at music in a way i respect. really like the third paragraph here

October 23rd 2018


Album Rating: 3.0

well written review. i think i'll enjoy this one a bit more - it sounds more in the vein of what is this heart, which is my fave htdw album by far

October 23rd 2018


was "hmmm" on first few listens but I dig this now, the subcutaneous vibe is convincing. singles are my go-to

October 25th 2018


Album Rating: 4.0

This is more somber and glitchy than Care, closer to his first album really. It’s kind of all over the place and the choice to reprise multiple songs is interesting.

Staff Reviewer
November 1st 2018


Great review dude, I specially like the last paragraph and how you end it, something I always have trouble with but here it comes out so naturally, well done.

Album's alright.

November 26th 2018


Album Rating: 3.0

didnt end up loving this album. almost every track hinted at moments of greatness but was bogged down in trying too hard to experiment sonically or structurally. overall that just made it murky and hard to revisit

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