Dressing well doesn’t mean adopting every runway trend, slathering yourself in logos or trying to keep up with the Joneses. It’s about being true to yourself; the surface expression of what’s within. And just as clothes are the first glimpse of a personality, the music artists create can provide a powerful deep dive into their internal psyches. Example A: the avant-garde pop artist How to Dress Well (recording alias of Tom Krell) and his experimental electronic music steeped in deeper meaning.
Krell was the third artist to stop by our Berlin office, as part of First on SoundCloud: Studio Sessions, to discuss his unintentional foray into music, his decade-long career, and his fifth studio album, The Anteroom.
Making music wasn’t Krell’s initial MO and it’s clear the thought-provoking lyrics are penned by someone who has a master’s in philosophy, not someone trying to follow a recipe for commercial success. Krell said, “I didn’t really have a passionate relationship with music-making until I learned about pedals and samplers and I was kind of exposed to the world of noise, rather than just the world of songs.” With otherworldly sounds and exhibition-worthy imagery in his videos, his music is a 360-degree sensory experience that proves Krell knows how to do everything well.
It’s been nearly a decade since Krell first snuck on the scene cloaked in obscurity. With The Anteroom he wanted to get back to “the avant forge” in which he first emerged as a creator. He approached the project strategically, grouping songs into two categories: “nonkilling” that represents the Buddhist ideal of pure living peace, and “false skull” that expresses an impossible pure death – two conflicting forces that hammock a listener in between.
In the studio, Krell played, “Body Fat,” a melancholy ballad off Anteroom that he wrote on Christmas Eve in his childhood home. On his website, scenes from the song’s music video fill the screen. A peach-colored not-quite liquid hangs suspended on the page; an amorphous putty that takes shape into something human – something that turns out to be Tom Krell. It’s an uncomfortable reminder of mortality offset by gossamer vocals and blending chords. It feels like a dance through molasses, being forcibly unhurried…a tension of heightened emotion vs. down-tempo speed.
In case you were wondering, Krell dresses well – and kind of like his music. He wore a white tee with blue text forming a circle that read, “SPIRITUALITY FREE WILL ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE,” topped off with a thin gold chain. A look that mirrors The Anteroom’s theme of opposing duality and the cyclical nature of his artistic journey.
Stream The Anteroom on SoundCloud here. And watch the video above for a glimpse into How to Dress Well’s First on SoundCloud: Studio Session.