How To Dress Well – ‘What Is This Heart?’

Tom Krell flexes his R&B muscles but is better when he sticks to his chilltronic roots

Though Tom Krell, aka HTDW, is fiercely “credible”, he’s also pop. The American namechecks Spiritualized, Mark Kozelek and Lou Reed, and even recorded this chilltronic third album – where else? – in Berlin. But since the sonic mist from his neo-soul 2010 debut ‘Love Remains’ cleared, his elastic-tonsil R&B voice has aligned him closer to Daniel Bedingfield and R Kelly than James Blake and Bon Iver, no matter how much minimalist chiming, fuzzy synths and potting-the-black beats he slavers onto ‘What You Wanted’. His attempts to revolutionise, strip bare and stretch the borders of R&B with all manner of glitches, gollums and glaciers are admirable, but it’s only when he tranquilizes his inner Usher for the downbeat piano throb of ‘See You Fall’, the spectral orchestration of ‘Pour Cyril’ and the acoustic minimalism of ‘2 Years On (Shame Dream)’ that he achieves the subtlety and invention of, say, Sufjan Stevens. For the rest, he’s just another hipster with a laptop.

Mark Beaumont

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