Colorado singer-songwriter Tom Krell has spent much of the past decade inching from lo-fi R&B to glossy, boldfaced pop—a transition that culminated with 2016’s Care. Bleak, fragile, and unsettlingly beautiful, The Anteroom is a kind of about-face, shelving that glossy optimism for music that sounds rough, even a little industrial—what Krell calls Care’s “evil twin.”
“This is the first record I made where I lived,” Krell tells Apple Music. “I poured a hundred times the hours into it than all the other records combined.” The immersive, round-the-clock experience helped open his ears. “It takes an enormous amount of time to access a level of hearing, where you really start to hear texture as texture and timbre as timbre.” Though the collection was composed in more or less the same way as Krell’s previous efforts (often starting with voice improvisations into a phone or computer), he dove deeper into the sound design, creating—with coproducer Joel Ford—a dense, almost obsessively layered world filled with static, broken signals, and surfaces eroded by digital noise.
Despite the tonal shift, the album retains Krell’s unusual talent for transposing pop forms into adventurous, avant-garde spaces, touching on gospel (“Nonkilling 13”), UK garage (“Nonkilling 6”), sound collage (“False Skull 7”), and the kind of free-floating balladry that has always made his music stand out (“Body Fat”), all of it anchored by his restrained falsetto—a worried voice searching for comfort in the dark.
“A big motto for this record was ‘incomplete picture,’” Krell says—a sense both of sonic fragmentation, but also of where he is in his broader journey: No longer projecting something prepackaged or cinched-up, he leaves himself vulnerable, uncertain but open.