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California Sounds: Hear new music from How to Dress Well, Anderson .Paak and Grave Flowers Bongo Band

California Sounds: Hear new music from How to Dress Well, Anderson .Paak and Grave Flowers Bongo Band
California born singer-rapper Anderson .Paak photographed in 2015. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

How to Dress Well, “The Anteroom” (Domino).

The thematically linked fifth studio album from Tom Krell, who performs as How to Dress Well, revels in synthetic manipulation, contemplating these darkened times with a sound that’s somehow both claustrophobic and minimalistic.

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A collaboration between the Echo Park-based Krell and East Coast transplant Joel Ford (best known as half of, with Oneohtrix Point Never’s Daniel Lopatin, Ford & Lopatin) that was created at Ford’s Glendale recording studio. “The Anteroom” was crafted with an intention, Krell said in a release statement, “to sound like the insides of bones that are turning to embers.”

Sounds lovely, eh? He said that after the 2016 election, he experienced “a circulation of hell energy on Earth that was difficult and miserable and violent.”

You can hear that grim energy across “The Anteroom,” but Krell and Ford present these themes with loving and mathematically precise beauty. Instrumentally, Ford filters dynamically rich tones through effects that tint each note with shimmering darkness, like pearls of light reflecting off black marble.

Visually, the striking video for “Body Fat” mixes closeup shots of Krell singing and animated, pulsating globules of something-or-other. As the goo wobbles and flows, he sings in falsetto about a culture weighed down by pain and anger. Footage shows Krell’s head collapsing in on itself, buckling helplessly as the pressurized atmosphere crumples it into nonexistence.

Anderson .Paak featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Tints” video (Aftermath). The video for this new track from the Grammy-nominated Oxnard all-star finds him delving deep into his psyche and examining its more insulated nooks. The majority of the clip is spent in the artist’s imagination as he reacts to a lover’s desire “to live in an unmasked world.”

As she says this, the strum of an acoustic guitar rings, followed by a glistening beat and an image of .Paak tied up in the trunk of an old sedan, his mouth covered with duct tape. What follows is a whirlwind, unfiltered look at race, class, violence and day-to-day struggle.

It accompanies a song in which .Paak lyrically justifies his need for a car and a life, with tinted windows, citing paparazzi, money and privacy. For his part, Lamar delivers his verse while hooked to an IV and in a wheelchair. As if battling an unknown disease, he presents weakness while explaining that he needs tints “so I can look at the snakes and posers.” The track is from .Paak’s forthcoming second album — named for his home turf — “Oxnard.” Due Nov. 16, it was produced by Dr. Dre.

Grave Flowers Bongo Band, “Flower Pot” (Permanent). If only all bands were so accurately named. Indeed a bongo band founded by a leader who goes by Grave Flowers, the outfit is teasing its first album with a song that harnesses the earthen, stoned percussion tones and driving, hard-strummed acoustic guitar.

A trio whose moniker is a riff on multi-instrumentalist Gabe Flores’ name, the Bongo Band features Vaughn Christensen on bongo and Andy Caly on electric bass. They combine to build a sound that wanders the same meadow as the pre-T. Rex bongo band Tyrannosaurus Rex, co-founded by Marc Bolan.

The nine songs on “Flower Pot” are more distorted than Bolan’s bucolic duo, and Christensen’s hand-slapping rhythms likely made his hands tingle for a few post-studio days. Was it worth it? Definitely, and the evidence is in the album’s first released song, called “Sacred.” The entire record comes out on Nov. 16.

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