How To Dress Well : Total Loss
Tom Krell refines his craft with haunting effect on Total Loss, the follow-up to his less-refined debut, Love Remains. Where his first album boxed its wriggling vocals into a compressed echo chamber, this latest collection has an immense sense of space, its stark sounds well catered for by the XX producer Rodaidh McDonald. Within this cavernous space, Krell bares his soul with a claustrophobic, heart-wrenching vocal.
The vocals do most of the work here, with the music stripped-back, but with many intricacies bubbling away under the sparse surface. If the music was more commercial and the production more ham-fisted, we’d have some serious chart-worthy R&B ballads here. Yet the closest we get to a hit is & It Was You, a four-to-the-floor banger that’s atypical to the stark remainder of the album. Krell doesn’t seem all that interested in charts, though; rather than telling tales of sex and sensuality, he commits to death, sadness and loss.
“You were there when I was in trouble” is the driving lyric for two songs on this album, suggesting that this music is a posthumous gift to an influential figure in Krell’s life. In the anthemic Set It Right, he reels off names of people missing in his life, an emotive release that recalls Kate Bush’s Moments Of Pleasure. Combined with the preceding Talking To You, which lays vocals over the same weeping strings used on the stunning mid-album instrumental, this last deep exhale consolidates the album’s gradual unfolding as one long, sad goodbye.
BY CHRIS GIRDLER
Best Track: Cold Nites
If You Like These, You’ll Like This: Thinking In Textures CHET FAKER, The Velvet Rope JANET JACKSON, Unmap VOLCANO CHOIR
In A Word: Cathartic