How To Dress Well gives an intimate and immersive performance for the senses

How to Dress Well at The Wise Hall, 12/03/18

Photo by Zackery Michael

While a bluegrass wedding band performed in the lounge downstairs, The Wise Hall played host to music of a much different taste Monday night. The often-overlooked venue on Vancouver’s east side was the setting for an evening of immersive and haunting audio and visuals with the artist known as How To Dress Well.

Colorado-native Tom Krell has been releasing his unique style of ambient pop under the pseudonym since 2010 and released his fifth album, The Anteroom, this past October. After playing with a more open pop sound on 2016’s Care, Krell has gone on to release his most honest and shredded work yet. His melodic nature is still apparent, but it’s warped within ripped up synths and fragments of twisted sampling.

Monday saw him display these jarring and complex sounds in an intimate performance for a diverse audience.

However, the evening can not go without mention of the opening act. At times cringe-worthy, disturbing and awkward, Vancouver’s Shitlord Fuckerman put on an oddly pleasing performance for the growing crowd at the start of the night.

Wearing a mask of a human face that covered the upper half of their own, the artist played heavy techno tracks from their laptop while dabbling with a synthesizer. Despite their uncomfortable banter with the audience, the peculiar performer wasn’t afraid to jump off the stage and literally roll around on the floor during one of their songs.

Though a somewhat under-prepared set (they stopped a song a minute in because they weren’t “feeling that one”), you don’t see many performances quite like that of Shitlord Fuckerman’s.

The wide-open hall had amassed a crowd of around 100 people by the time Krell’s tall and shadowy figure appeared on stage. He encouraged the wallflowers to join in front before beginning his set. The floor quickly became much more comfortable.

For a How To Dress Well show, a close-knit crowd is an essential component. Krell aims for a shared experience and he wants his audience right there with him as he performs.

The first part of his show was dark and stormy with flashing blue and grey visuals backing him on a projection screen. He opened the set with the first three tracks of his latest album.  “Body Fat” showed off his aching vocals and “Nonkilling 3 – The Anteroom – False Skull 1,” a piece of beauty surrounded by tumultuous synths.

A re-working of 2016’s “Lost Youth / Lost You” gave fans a down-tempo look at the piano-pop favourite.

He moved from one song to the next with no gaps in sound and no interruptions of cheers from the audience. In between the music he took several minutes to tell some amusing and personal stories to the crowd, showing the human behind the chilling music.

The second sequence of songs was “more romantic” according to the singer, and included a snippet from 2014’s popular “Face Again” before moving into the most digestible track from his latest, “Love Means Taking Action.”

A stand-out in the final sequence of songs was the album closer, “Nothing.” Heavy synths and a rolling chorus … it was a great burst of energy approaching the end of the night.