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How to Dress Well explores emotions amid explosions for Connect Sessions

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How To Dress Well
Ryan Muir

Music and visual art have always been deeply intertwined, and on Wednesday three pairings of artists and musicians explored what that relationship means in the electronic age. As part of their Connect Sessions series of collaborations, Microsoft and Spin presented performances by three musical acts with custom video projections.

The night began with a solo performance by Ian Williams of proggy art-rock scene stalwarts Battles, whose twitchy synthesizer psychedelia was paired with a hyperkinetic video piece by Ron Amstutz that used stop-action animation of a dancer assuming contortionist-like positions in front of painted grids to suggest an analog adaptation of 8-bit video game graphics. It ended with electronic Com Truise playing in front of intricate geometric graphics by CandyStations that played well with the retro-futuristic elements woven into his pop-tinged techno.

The most successful and moving connection was between How to Dress Well, the avant-R&B project masterminded by Tom Krell, and his longtime visual collaborator Melissa Matos. Krell’s compositions are rooted in heartache and loss, but they draw their energy from the act of transcending the downward pull those emotions exert–something that he seems to have picked up from R. Kelly along with his nimble vocal runs. Matos placed the band in a three-sided chamber of video projections made out of images mirrored up to–and occasionally well beyond–the point of abstractions. The visuals used bits of portraits of faces as their source material, underlining the intimate nature of Krell’s music, but when the group’s set reached its emotional climax they were bathed in dust clouds endlessly exploding into psychedelic textures, amplifying the set’s cathartic pinnacle, and leaving a crowd that was heavy on jaded industry types momentarily stunned.