Total Loss is a much less insular listening experience than How To Dress Well’s (alias of singer/producer Tom Krell) debut, Love Remains, and most of the reverb and lo-fi production is cleaned away: it all sounds very clear but mostly manages to retain the intimate bed-sit solitude of Krell’s debut. Opener ‘When I Was in Trouble’s’ opening piano refrain is dolefully buoyed up by the surging and distant churn of thunderclouds. ‘Cold Nites’ icy piano notes sound like their coming straight from Dracula’s castle, with a warped bass-line that wanders out ominously beneath an infantilised vocal sample.
‘Say My Name Or Say Whatever’s’ vice-tight melody is Four Tet circa Rounds with most of the serotonin washed out, but the child-like choral whisper at the end of the song is truly angelic and tinged with the kind of warm-hearted feeling you get from a carol song.
‘Running Back’ is classic 90′s r’n'b finger clicking backed by Krell’s ear-worm cadence and near-lost in the mix shoe-gaze humming. Imagine if Boyz II Men sound-tracked one of your dreams and you’ve got the feeling of it sussed. One of the album’s few weak points is ‘& It Was U’, not because it’s a bad song per se, it’s just not very unique and sounds like an offcut from a Jamie Lidell record. However, I do very much like the shoe-clomp percussion that begins half-way through its run-time.
Mid-album instrumental ‘World I Need You, Won’t Be Without You’ is hair-raising, soaring Sigur Rós atmospherics grounded by meaty string plucking. It sounds like nothing from Krell’s debut and is probably the most openly optimistic piece of music he’s ever released. ‘How Many?’ has an immersive production style wherein it sounds like all the beats have been submerged deep underwater, reminding me a little of Balam Acab’s Wander/Wonder.
We go back to the Sigur Rós influence with ‘Talking to You’ and its cinematic orchestration, but once again Krell’s voice sounds like it’s lost down a well or underwater giving the song an excellent push-pull between the close intimacy to his voice and the epic orchestral narration to his whispered tribulations. Krell’s lyrics reach their direct-punch emotional apex with penultimate track ‘Set It Right’, wherein he sings to his loved ones over Clams Casino-esque syllable-stretched vocal proclamations. The narcotic vibe continues into the final song, ‘Ocean Floor For Everything’ with its ambient Balam Acab harp-like string pulling.
Total Loss is a fantastic album, and though it shares much of its sound palette with other contemporary producers, it still separates itself from the pack with Krell’s extraordinary voice and a sharp eye for detail. It is also much more accessible than anything he’s done before, and should rightfully garner him a wider audience.
We are currently seeking Music contributors on WhatCulture. To find out more about the perks of being a Music contributor, click here.