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18.10.2018 | Words by: Mathys Rennela

Just a simple drum pattern and a falsetto voice. This is the simple recipe of the success of ‘& It Was U’, the 2012 hit track taken from the sophomore album of the American singer Tom Krell, who performs under the moniker How To Dress Well. With this nearly a cappella track which constitutes a bold display of Krell’s vocal talents, Krell departed from the ambient lo-fi R&B he was at that time known for.

How to Dress Well — "& It Was U"

In his third studio album ‘What is this heart?’, the LA-based producer fully embraces R&B, with clear inspirations from Prince, Beyoncé, Michael Jackson. Krell takes pleasure of being where he’s not expected to be, telling Pitchfork in 2014: ‘I want my music to be pop, but not populist—I want to be #1 on Billboard, but I want to do it on my own terms.’ This is a vision that he tried to realise with his fourth album Care in 2016, which achieves the transition of How To Dress Well into an alt-R&B/pop act.

But the R&B/pop scene isn’t as impermeable to experimental sound as it was when Tom Krell started releasing music, back in 2009. Beyoncé’s self-titled album managed to debut as number one on US Billboard, in spite of the inclusion of experimental sounds and music patterns which departed from Beyoncé’s previous four albums. Artists such as James Blake and Frank Ocean have found mainstream success, and went on to influence R&B, pop, and hip hop through various collaborations. What is left for the alternative scene to explore in 2018, when the lines between alt-R&B and mainstream R&B are so blurred?

One could see How To Dress Well’s forthcoming album, The Anteroom, as an answer to that question. Tom Krell’s falsetto voice still guides us through his emotions. However, there’s a real shift: not only in the construction of the album, but also in the musical styles it borrows from. This fifth studio album isn’t just a musically nostalgic album which goes back to the ambient experimental R&B which started Krell’s career. Techno, house and IDM are now a support for Krell’s voice, resulting in what cannot be describe in any other way than a perfect blend between R&B and electronic dance music.

How To Dress Well - Nonkilling 6 | Hunger

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