Friday, 14 September 2012

Review // How To Dress Well- 'Total Loss'

I'm finally back in my adopted city! Bramall has been renovated and is, for once, not looking like an abandoned mental asylum which was the best surprise ever. I've been reunited with my uni girls, scaring possible future flatmates off during a viewing by way of awkward introductions and blasting Death Grips throughout the flat (I'm the only person here at the moment!), receiving Reeses Pieces upon arrival and almost crying at the Katy Perry film where she is all depressed in Sao Paulo- don't judge me! I was also sent an advanced copy of the new How To Dress Well record this week which is beautifully fantastic, I reviewed it for Freedom Spark here and you can enjoy it below, too! The Guardian are also streaming it in advance here, isn't that nice? Happy 'lets all avoid the influx of Freshers' week! 
 How To Dress Well- 'Total Loss'
Tom Krell is a man inundated with emotions and a soft spot for hip-hop. There I said it- although you’d never expect it off the bat with a name like ‘How To Dress Well’ now, would you? These points were evident on the strikingly touching ‘Love Remains’ back in 2010 and it sure has been a long two-year wait for those in the know, now finally, follow-up ‘Total Loss’ is released on Weird World/ Ac├ęphale come September 18th. The questions upon everyone’s lips have been along the likes of “Will HTDW flounder from awful-second-album-syndrome?” and “Will he fail to capture what ‘Love Remains’ did so individually well?”. Shame on you ponderers’! Never doubt a man’s craft, especially when it’s as marvellously idiosyncratic as this release is.
 ‘When I was In Trouble’ commences with what appears to be samples of  train tracks underneath humble keys and Krell’s distinctive falsetto of ‘You were there for me when life was a struggle’, making for a straightforward yet desirable combination that fundamentally sets the affectional atmosphere for the rest of the record, although, it doesn’t really feel like an opener - which is precisely where ‘Cold Nites’ steps in. At first, Krell’s vocals come across more Andrew Wyatt back on Miike Snow’s debut rather than containing his so-called usual Bon Iver tones but either way, when lead up with enticing strings and simmering percussion, a whole other dimension is introduced. The track almost seems, well, sexy for a piece that is so based around (as the title evidently suggests) loss, specifically thanks to frets of  “Tell me what I wanna do/ Tell me what I gotta do, baby” sounding  deliciously slick. ‘Cold Nites’ above all presents to listeners old and new exactly why HTDW is one of the few electronic/ r&b crossover artists outriding the wave to the very end and beyond.
‘Say My Name Say Whatever’ delivers itself as a standout track thanks to an introduction taken from 80’s documentary ‘Streetwise’ and a pairing of soothingly gorgeous vocals underlaid by radiant keys, echoing a pattern throughout the album that less can definitely be more. ‘&it was u’ plays like a 90s R&B track that has been re-discovered and remixed to a modern day adaptation, except its recognisably original, as luscious layered vocals and instrumental additions in the form of various drum cadences reflect that this is the thing about HTDW; nothing is full-throttle and at break-neck speed, it is all about building layers of suspense, sentiment and brilliance.
 ‘World I need you, won’t be without you’ is an instrumental track of pianos, glockenspiels and literally the most heart-wrenching viola sections that I’ve heard by a modern day artist ion a long time; the piece literally sounds like it should have played on the titanic at moment of sinking, just incase you thought you were out of the red and into the black on the previous track, that is. Struggle’ is the first sign of anything that isn’t simplistic instrumental wise, as this remix of ‘When I Was In Trouble’ shows vocals becoming distorted and warped- piercings of electronica be carried on through bending overlaps of which should affect the quality of the track (as was the case on ‘Love Remains’) but, in fact, acts as a metaphorical aid for the struggles of which Krell delivers to us so profoundly. ‘Set It Right’ really is the tip of the stirringly despairing iceberg, as Krell sorrowfully lists fifteen people he has loved and lost before reaching a dazzlingly cataclysmic explosion at its peak.
‘Total Loss’ doesn’t make me want to jump out of my 12th floor flat window, it does the opposite of depress the listener and instead offers hope, renewal and also shows the audience a little segment of his inner-most workings. The only person who is also as bravely emotional in his music today would be that of Perfume Genius, plain and simple. After listening to this record non-stop for the past few days, there have been tears of condolence on my behalf and all I want to do is sit him down with a large glass of red and a shoulder to cry on- but it appears that he already has it all figured out- ‘Total Loss’ is his therapy to share with the world and a magnificent piece of art sure to stand the test of time.
9/10
Words by Yours Truly X

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