Tom Krell’s previous album as How To Dress Well, Care, was very poppy in places, and while his falsetto didn’t sound bad next to its perky production the sound was more than a little pedestrian. As a corrective, The Anteroom is considerably more abstract, and with help from Joel Ford who co-produced Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica album it shows considerably more range and flows freely between main tracks and interludes.
These interludes have two names: Nonkilling and False Skull, the former being beatless ambient vignettes and the latter often incorporating more industrial sounds. False Skull 12 is the most fleshed out of these brief compositions, with an ’80s-sounding electronic groove and distorted percussion hits providing an intense atmosphere.
Body Fat is Krell’s vocal delivery at its most angelic with a delicate tune, ethereal harmonies and a mid-tempo pulse driving the track forward, while he explores the top of his range in the vulnerable Brutal, featuring poet Ocean Vuong. The instrumentals behind his lyrics are often glitchy, contrasting abrasive sounds with the delicate timbre of Krell’s voice, but on July 13 No Hope No Pain this dynamic is reversed and airy pads form a peaceful backdrop to some unsettling spoken word (“she said ‘imagine a day, imagine it’s today / you finally drive a knife across your face / social disgrace, no longer have to play / this human game, no hope, no pain’”).
Krell has said The Anteroom came from a time “in which my life just came crashing down”, and this tumult is reflected in the music as well as the lyrics. It is a far more ambitious project than 2016’s Care, and the ambition pays off as Krell returns to form with an experimental, nuanced project.