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How to Dress Well

Love Remains

[Lefse; 2010]

By ; November 8, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Ever since How to Dress Well released its first EP, The Eternal Love, back in the fall of last year, the music community has been buzzing. Tom Krell, the man behind the music, kept releasing EPs on his blog until this October. Now, we stand at his ethereal debut album, Love Remains.

The overall mood of the album is saturated in loneliness. Even when Krell loops multiple vocal tracks to attain a choir-like presence, Love Remains still sounds bleak. Not to say that this is an emotionally detached album. The loneliness conveyed isn’t as if a person shut themselves away from the rest of the world in cynical disgust. In fact, it sounds as if someone was shut away against their will and is reaching out for any human contact that can be managed. The production is lo-fi, with lots of hiss and static. At times, it feels like the speakers are blown out, or are about to pop and suddenly become silent. The vocals are drenched in reverb and seem to bounce off walls, only to become distorted and merge with a buzzing bass line or muddy beat. Electronic screeches haunt the album, waiting to materialize in the midst of a chorus. However, the production shouldn’t be viewed in a negative light. All of the distortion and groan of the album adds to the mood. The loneliness wouldn’t be conveyed half as well if the quality and production of the sound were crystal clear.

It is apparent that Krell draws influence from gospel right from the start. Songs such as “Ready For The World” and “Escape Before The Rain” take on a gospel-influenced sound. The multilayered, falsetto vocals cast shadows over the music, as if they are being sung in a monolithic church or temple on a day of mourning. Handclaps accompany beats that sound as if they were made by stomping on a weak, hardwood floor. Songs like these are reminiscent of Bon Iver’s “Woods.”

Yet, not all of the songs carry on this way. “Mr. By & By” and “Endless Rain” draw influence from R&B. They are some of the only songs to actually use live drums and piano, breaking away from the choir and simple beat combination that Love Remains seems to hold so dear.

One song that stands out is “Walking This Dumb,” the only live track on the album. What starts out as haunting ambient noise and sparse electronic blips turns into a marching funeral procession of bass and beats. The vocals, full of reverb and just as incomprehensible as the rest of the vocals on the album, compliment the music by continuously flowing through the hiss and distortion. Handclaps soon accompany the beat and turn the track into something that wouldn’t be out of place in a dance club.

All in all, Love Remains is a bleakly beautiful album. The haunting loneliness feels intimate and is accentuated by the lo-fi production. It’s an album that reaches deep into the listener and refuses to let go.


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