Two Artsweek writers take on the new King Krule album The OOZ for The Friday Review.
Konrad Neithercutt: A listen to The OOZ is an immersion in Archy Marshall’s drowsy and irritable delirium. This is the 23-year-old’s second album under the King Krule moniker, the first being 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, which made waves in 2013 with its eclectic and precociously distinct sound and gained the attention and adoration of such famed artists as Beyoncé and Frank Ocean. But it seems Marshall wants to do some exploring while he’s still young; find himself; rebel a little. What sprung from his unsettled soul was an exercise in bipolar lunacy.
Throughout the new project, the singer/songwriter/musician/producer whirls from lo-fi to hi-fi, across a spectrum of tempos and from sedated to agitated states in a manner that would be dizzying if it weren’t so seamless. There’s a balance to Marshall’s madness. He expands on the smooth moodiness of 6 Feet, but his punk influences enjoy much more air time here. His vocal adaptations to these rougher, more addled sounds are even more compelling.
As some of the best things in life, Marshall’s voice is somewhat of an acquired taste. Its abundant richness can be overwhelming to the unaccustomed listener, but the low register and thick South London accent in which he sings provide a rawness much needed in an age when overproduction often sucks the life out of the human voice. King Krule’s music, on the other hand, comes from underneath you, and on this album takes you underwater. This is violently true on the album’s punkier cuts. The restless, distorted guitar riffs on songs like “Dum Surfer” and “Emergency Blimp” do well to complement Marshall’s deep and untethering vocals as they come to an aggravated boil. An echoing, bass-heavy symphony of waves crashes overhead. These songs have you bobbing your whole body and rattling inside it.
That’s not to say Marshall can’t deliver a fantastic slow jam. On the wistfully declarative title track and the down-tempo, syncopated grooves of “Midnight 01 (Deep Sea Diver),” he fishes a jazzy melancholy from the depths of his soul. Tracks like these are the most personal on the album — and beautifully so. Between the latter’s soft weep of guitar chords comes the sobering and pensive reflection, “Why’d you leave me because of my depression? / You used to complete me, but I guess I learned a lesson.” Marshall exhibits a talent for loading and springing coils of emotion in the span of a couple lyrics. On countless occasions, he offers the uncanny prose of the troubled, disaffected mind. The barking refrain of “Slush Puppy,” “Nothin’ is workin’ with me,” bears the artist’s mounting frustration as it floats into the ether, dissipates and surrounds you. To resist absorbing it is thoroughly difficult. Marshall’s thoughts entice you into embracing them as your own, no matter how malignant they announce themselves to be. They wash over you, but they also wash beneath you, through you and within you.
The OOZ is a different atmosphere. Marshall plays the navigator of its deep, dark depths. In this collage of genres and influences, boundaries dissolve. King Krule creates a musical space totally new and unknown, where the recesses of the subconscious manifest as part of the landscape. The OOZ inhabits those late-night hours when the demons of the mind and city slink about. The freedom is theirs.
Tia Rotolo: British singer Archy Marshall — better known as King Krule — returns to music, but not humanity, with the release of The OOZ on Friday, Oct. 13.
From its induction up until its final note, Marshall’s latest LP is in motion as a distorted expenditure through time and space, abandoning glorifications of permanence. With brutally honest imagery, King Krule wrestles with human emotions, despite making every effort to resent humanity.
The album begins slowly with “Biscuit Town.” Airy guitar riffs and static resemble a train moving over tracks. It’s familiar, but there’s something off about it. The track opens, “I seem to sink lower.” His deep, looming vocals immediately capture the listener in a firm grip juxtaposed with the delicate notes of the guitar. The song drops to a beat with every final note in the line lingering for slightly too long, evoking a discomfort that intrigues.
If there’s one thing King Krule has mastered, it’s creating something so eerie, so vile yet so addictive. His sound represents a sketchy alleyway at midnight: Even though we know better, we want to see what lies beyond. Howling chilling sounds, he challenges his audience to stay with him against all notions of common sense.
He presents his listener with one question: Where do we go when we don’t fit in anywhere?
His answer lies in a vast unknown, deep oceans and outer space. Both are odes to his previous albums and can be haunting to the average person, but he finds solace in them nonetheless. He’s lost and alone. His only places of belonging are where no one does.
A town alarm warns listeners of the commencement of the song, “Sublunary.” In an auto-tuned alien-like voice, King Krule talks of being “made for sublunary,” a reference to an earlier King Krule record, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon. Here, there are no physics, no humanity, and no emotions; This is where he belongs.
As sad as the album’s premise is, it doesn’t ask for sympathy. For each melodramatic line, Marshall presents a grotesque image of vomit or mutation, as done in “Lonely Blue.” He is not romantic; he is disgusting and vulgar, but also potent and unapologetic.
Like a lullaby, “Czech One” emulates a dream state. The song masters the feeling of wanting to fall asleep but being wide awake. Struggling with insomnia, the artist wrestles with the thought of the woman he can’t forget.
“She still sits in my dreams,” he sings.
He can’t escape her. Driven to insanity, Marshall and his listeners are invited to mourn.
Nearly every line is short and abrupt. This element of disjointment imitates a stream of consciousness, jumping from one thought to the next. What stitches each line together are the instrumentals, mediating the words to comprehension while sustaining the chaos of Marshall’s psyche.
In “Bermondsey Bosom (Right),” his father talks to the listener delicately over oriental sounds. He references Marshall’s previous albums, speaking as someone who knows him, but may not fully understand him. He’s unable to accept people and finds difficulty in distinguishing “paradise” and “parasites.”
In “Half Man Half Shark,” the singer’s lack of humanity transitions into animalia. He distinguishes himself from others as empty and losing meaning.
“See world, you’ll never know/At least when you look to the stars they still glow/Well, not for me though,” he sings, confirming that he’s the only one who can truly understand his own state of mind.
Subtly drifting to a new dimension, the artist takes his listener to “The Cadet Leaps.” With piano and static, he creates his own atmosphere. He’s lost but surrounded, gazing on humanity from a higher standpoint, watching the parasites and paradise get twisted in their own misconceptions. The listener discovers that the mysterious woman understood his condition and could transcend above humanity with him.
The title track begins with a woman speaking, “Its motion, it’s urgent, its trigger.”
King Krule in the background asks, “Is there anybody out there?”
The song is oozing with something unrefined. Pleas from Marshall include, “Could we align?” He’s desperate for human connection, but with someone who can understand. Melancholy and intricate, he is giving into companionship, slowly drifting back to a human place. “It’s cold by the fire,” he repeats again.
The album evens out with its closing track, “La Lune,” which uses elements of bass and guitar most resembling his earlier works. In addition to rain drizzling in the background and lighters being lit, he analyzes the human process of becoming the people we fall in love with, saying, “It won’t be long … / Till you’re inside my heart.”
In this song, as with much of the album, Marshall takes his listener to a familiar place of consciousness, but it’s a place that most people don’t wish to return to if they don’t have to. This is a place of darkness, where light isn’t known by its presence but solely by one’s belief in it. As a physical place, this state of mind can be related to the ocean and space, tying the themes of the album together.
Instead of leaving the disturbing mental state, King Krule soaks in its discomfort. In creating his home here, he can no longer be a human being, but instead becomes some adjunct of the universe. Yet, he still wrestles with human needs, as he wishes to be “Elevated with you.” The guitar riffs and static even out and eventually the listener is left alone in silence as the album ends simply and modestly.
The OOZ is depressive, sometimes manic, but always unforgiving. King Krule does not wish to evoke sympathy or some romanticized images of the depression which ails him. He’s basking in the originality and repugnance of his suffering. He’s full of guilt and regret, but he’s recognized the value of these emotions. Attempting to find his position in time and space, he wrestles with what we know and what we’ve yet to truly understand about the human condition. There are no false idealizations of a physical home, but merely a presentation of a mental state worth diving into.