Tom Krell’s last album as How To Dress Well, Care, was a new direction for the experimental R&B artist, one that added more pop sheen to his usual repertoire.
On his new record, The Anteroom, he goes the opposite direction, making his most bracing record ever; one that takes dark, grotesque imagery and abrasive electronic textures through a blender and creates something moving and powerful.
Krell’s ghostly voice on “Body Fat” is propulsive, with a subtle thump behind it only there to increase forward momentum. On “Nonkilling 3 • The Anteroom • False Skull 1,” Krell sees the face of God in a pool of blood, as a racing, bass-heavy drum machine knocks behind, and bursts into an explosion of warped drums and apocalyptic electronic noise at the 4-minute mark. “
Nonkilling 13 • Ceiling For the Sky” is a slow burner, eventually reaching out into the heavens with lush synths and ethereal vocals. But on the centerpiece, “Nonkilling 6 • Hunger,” Krell descends into euphoric dance with a corroded edge.
As sharp-eared listeners will note, the drum machine sometimes mirrors the “Revolution 909” programming used by Daft Punk. As synths sidechain everywhere, Krell remains in the middle, with his voice guiding the song through. It’s a perfect microcosm of the album as a whole; a brilliant hybrid of mangled sonics and sheer beauty.