Philosophy student Tom Krell approaches his self-recorded, lo-fi homage to the ’80s and ’90s R&B he loves with an academic eye, framing his debut, Love Remains—and the entire How To Dress Well concept—as an exploration of the way feelings fade over time. While he’s in love with the loverman sounds of Keith Sweat and Blackstreet, Krell’s grimy, ghostly versions of those bubble-baths-and-candlelight melodies aren’t really made for romancing: This is R&B minus the rhythm, with fragmentary beats echoing from the next room, buried under layers of ethereal ambient drones, reverb-drenched piano loops, and Krell’s Bon Iver-like multi-tracked falsetto. It’s lonely music, cold and haunting, and all the more elusive for Krell’s mostly indecipherable lyrics. There are brief glimpses through the fog, as when the “I was hoping for the rain / I was hoping for you” refrain breaks through “My Body,” but Krell keeps his on-bended-knee melodies buried behind the shadows of spectral hiss, evoking a long-neglected cassette tape. But for all its hermetic remove—spelled out by samples from Todd Haynes’ Safe on the opener, “You Hold The Water”—Love Remains is an immersive experience that transcends its chilliness (and speaker-crackling sonic limitations) through pure emotion, whether it’s the stroboscopic swirl of “Ready For The World” or the pocket symphony build of “Decisions.” Nothing wrong with a little bump and grind, even in the abstract.
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