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How To Dress Well Shares First New Music in Six Years & Announces New Album “I Am Toward You” due May 10th via Sargent House

March 5, 2024
Photo credit: Y. Arslan

How To Dress Well Shares First New Music in Six Years & Announces New Album “I Am Toward You” due May 10th via Sargent House

In his 15+ years recording as How To Dress Well, LA-based musician Tom Krell has played with the concept of what we hear and how we communicate in order to create music that exists somewhere between celestial transcendence and an outsider approach to what pop music can be. In Krell’s musical world, the weight of a sample comes from his history with it, the meaning of a lyric fragment is stretched and distorted, its core skirting universal interpretation in favour of specificity.

I Am Toward Youset for release May 10th via Sargent House, is the first new How To Dress Well album in six years: with some of his noisiest, most free, and most poetic music to date. To coincide with the announcement, the first two singles from the record “New Confusion” & “No Light” are out now. The new songs feature contributions from CFCF and Trayer Tryon, as well as Anarthia DLT.

Krell offers some insight into “New Confusion”: “It’s about how to relate to the past knowing the hard limits on human memory and the challenges of metabolizing intergenerational-anthropogenetic trauma. “At best regret, at worst forgetfulness,” I sing in the chorus – a tortured concept of memory, no doubt. But I also sing that there is a path to freedom from this bind.”

With “New Confusion”, Krell’s voice appears almost lullaby-like—it’s a deceptively pretty vocalisation that documents a moment of optimistic rebirth tinged by the fear of isolation. In that sense, it is a document of life itself: the pitfalls of opening ourselves to love and the harrowing path toward self-actualization, all wrapped up in a line that feels like a thesis statement for the album itself: “Hell is where no one has anything in common with anyone else.” It’s clear that Krell, reborn and searching, is seeking deep connection with his family, with his friends, with himself and his own life.

The enchanting synth notes and the complex atmosphere simply engulf the listener. The hypnotic nature of the sweeping rhythms looping through the landscape sculpt this intricate force which is then joined with the raw lyrics and alternating vocal harmonies. The harmonies capture such a diverse range as the track allows this shifting with the flow of the release, meandering through diminuendo delivery to a dynamic and intensive push. When the bass hits and the addition of the weight of the tonality drops towards the final few bars, the sincerity peaks.

On “No Light”, Krell offered “‘No Light’ is a song about contemporary LA, a place simply teeming with unspeakable suffering. It is, like LA, paradoxically and fundamentally also a bop. It’s a song I wrote after an interaction I had during the pandemic, something like a scene from Mulholland Drive, a young woman crawling across the ground in the alley behind my house in a white dress screaming about a ‘pig mask.’”

The next offering from the new record gives a more cutting composition, abrasive textures combine with this euphoric movement and standout harmonic tones. The power of this arrangement is something else, continuously building up the intensive course and pushing the levels and textures to a step further than you’d expect. The beat channels this danceable effort and the slicing of the intensive passages deepens the compelling weight of this voyage. Whilst this brooding textural affluence grips you, the delicate nature of the harmonies softens the vision.

Krell was galvanized following his fifth album, 2018’s dense, noisy and mangled The Anteroom, itself a reaction to 2016’s pop-leaning Care. He finished his PhD in philosophy with a dissertation on the possibility of non-nihilistic metaphysics, completing a journey he’d been on since the earliest days of the HTDW project. Krell wanted to retreat deeper into himself, not to go back to basics, exactly, but to instead “find corners of myself that I had never explored” and “get back into the world.” On a mantra-like interlude on the record, Krell sings over and over that “the only true joy on earth is to escape from the prison of our own false self.” To do this himself, he underwent “clandestine and occult meditation,” including two weeks of complete silence, multiple multi-day meditations, and several dalliances with transformative psychedelic medicine as well. 

Upon releasing The Anteroom, Krell embarked on a solo tour that saw him performing some of the most intense music of his career, playing more than 150 solo shows over two years. He emerged from the tour exhausted and a bit frustrated with the way his music practice had slowly morphed into something that felt less like art and more like a business. “I had to reorient myself towards music in a purer and less restrictive way in order to retrieve what has made music one of the most heart-opening, instructive phenomena in my life,” he says. Krell was in search of not a fresh start, exactly, but instead a return to the open-hearted, uncynical approach to music making that he adopted as a kid, and carried through the release of his haunting breakthrough debut, 2010’s Love Remains, when he was making music in relative anonymity with little external pressure.

In 2020, Krell, alongside returning and new collaborators CFCF, Chris Votek, Joel Ford, Josh Clancy, Trayer Tryon, Brian Allen Simon (Anenon), and Aaron Charles Read began work on what would become I Am Toward You. For obvious reasons, this was a year where time took on new shapes—Krell suddenly had a lot more of it, and was mostly alone. He sifted through hundreds of snippets he’d recorded in the preceding decade, finding inexplicable samples and snatches of audio that began to cohere into an album that stripped back the density of The Anteroom and resulted in a song cycle of Durutti Column-esque guitar ripple paired with lyrics that treat time itself as an open plane.  

Krell oscillates between the present and the past as if it’s happening all at once. In these songs, everything is happening all the time. A memory from 20 years ago holds just as much weight as something that happened yesterday. Each song, too, is linked to the larger world: these tracks are in constant dialogue with not just each other, but the environments in which they were made. It feels like a diaristic approach to how we can find new perspectives on our own lives, as informed by the way Krell transformed himself in the nearly six years between the release of The Anteroom and the release of I Am Toward You.

Even the title of the album itself—I Am Toward You—is the result of his wife mishearing a lyric from the Miley Cyrus song “I Adore You”. “[She said,] ‘wow, that’s a powerful lyric,’ I asked which lyric, and she responded that she heard the chorus as having said: ‘I Am Toward You,’ Krell says. “Because I had expressed to her that I thought the song was powerful, she generously attuned her mind to hear something powerful, something profound.” This relatively mundane moment of misinterpretation suddenly took on extra weight. A straightforward phrase like “I adore you” shifts perception and a newer, deeper meaning emerges. It’s that joy in unexpected connection that carries so much of I Am Toward You.

Sometimes all we need to manifest a new existence is awareness of what’s around us already. There’s deeper meaning hidden everywhere. Follow it far enough and long enough, and you’ll land on real personal truth. On I Am Toward You, Krell is asking us to open our eyes and ears so we, like him, can find it.

I Am Toward You tracklist:
1. New Confusion
2. Contingency/Necessity (Modality of Fate)
3. Crypt Sustain
4. No Light (feat. Anarthia DLT)
5. nothingprayer (feat. Aaron Read, Anenon, Noah Allaire)
6. On It and Around It
7. Song in the Middle
8. Gas Station Against Blackened Hillside
9. A Faint Glow Through a Window of Thin Bone (That’s How My Fate is Shown)
10. The Only True Joy on Earth
11. A Secret Within the Voice

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