By Josh Adams (@jxshadams)
Having spent approximately seven years in the game now, Archy Ivan Marshall – known professionally as King Krule – still remains something of an anomaly in the already eclectic world of British indie music, due to his mish-mashing of several disparate genres to create something entirely different, almost like a child building a bastard Lego creation from arbitrary blocks. Lazier writers might be inclined to make comparisons to contemporaries such as Mac DeMarco and Jamie T, or classic songwriters who reported from the gritty frontline of working class society, like Joe Strummer or J Dilla. The truth is, King Krule is a far more interesting artist than any of these half-arsed resemblances, and on his sophomore effort The OOZ, he becomes quite clearly just that – an artist, a musician just as much dedicated to his image, his sound and his atmosphere as he is his songcraft.
The scene isn’t merely set with opening track Biscuit Town – it shuffles menacingly through the fog of a London street at night, muttering violent nothings under its breath as trademark jazzy guitars slither on the concrete bed of a waltzing electronic drum beat. The nocturnal feel from his debut, and the New Place 2 Drown project under his own name, remains, but feels less suffocated in reverb. Biscuit Town shows the album is more content with its own claustrophobia, and this feeling is continued with second track The Locomotive, a song that manages to combine dub, post-punk, heavy metal and Blur-esque pop without sounding like a train crash. It’s also here that Marshall‘s vocals come to the fore, and the listener is reminded again of just how much of a great singer he is, his midnight croon erupting into a visceral roar at the drop of a low-slung baseball cap.
In fact, it’s his voice – dark, ragged, insert any other thematically continuous synonyms you wish *here* – that is the star of the show for most of the LP’s sixty-six minute long run time. Pre-release single Half Man Half Shark offers a brilliantly rumbling instrumental to match the core-shaking baritone that spits out lyrics such as: “And if you don’t know and if you don’t care, don’t try to hide, you don’t not even there.” Elsewhere, the lilting lullaby La Lune watches solemnly out a window onto a rainy night, its isolation captured perfectly in the lines, “It won’t be long till you’re inside, till you’re inside my heart… to be with you, such a view, to be elevated to you“, its literary longing buoyed by a gentle, hopeful vocal performance that captures the singer’s innate virtuosity.
Maybe it is because of King Krule‘s irresistible and majestic voice, and the fabulously obtuse words that accompany it, that some of the more instrumental tracks drawn out throughout The OOZ can sometimes feel like filler, in and out of the grand context of the record. This is a long journey of an album, and its musical denseness can make it feel longer, and so listeners might find themselves wondering if ambient interludes like Bermondsey Bosom (Left) or more extensive numbers such as The Cadet Leaps could have had more attention paid to them during the editing process. In fact, you could even be forgiven for considering the project to be self-indulgent – after all, who else is releasing hour long records dripping with the kind of instrumentation and vocals that King Krule does these days?
But then again, the fact of the matter is no one else in Britain is crafting “indie rock” albums as volatile and immersive as Marshall is. The OOZ genuinely feels like what constituted for a proper album back in the days when how deep you could get lost in an LP went some ways in defining its quality. Because of this, it becomes a rewarding listen, details upon details unfurling with every repeated submersion into King Krule‘s shadow-stalked world. Nowhere else does this become more apparent than on lead singe Czech One: at first, you’re lulled into a false sense of security with its twinkling electric piano and its digital doo-wop harmonies. But, gradually, dissonance creeps in as Marshall paints a picture of detachment, insomnia and death, until the whole thing subtly morphs into something completely alien right in front of your eyes. And that’s The OOZ in a nutshell; you can’t relate to it, but you can’t look away. It might not move you, but it will undoubtedly intrigue, fascinate and horrify you.