Four years after his debut, 23-year old English singer-songwriter Archy Marshall has released a sophomore record called The OOZ under the name King Krule. Right from the start, this album lyrically and instrumentally feels like falling into a lonely, eerie abyss. Archy’s bellowing vocals feel unsettling and almost lazy, supported by the atmospheric, loose tone of the instrumentals. The sonic landscape includes influences from a number of genres, most notably post-punk, jazz, and trip-hop. The experimental nature of the songs is backed by stream-of-consciousness writing and several emotional detours, a look into Archy’s mind and experience with solitude. As we slowly drift through his dark thoughts, guitar passages eerily fade in and out, horns bellow, and keys trail out of tune.
A few of this album’s strong points include the cathartic nature of the lyrics and unique vocal performances. If singer-songwriter albums interest you, this may be one of your top picks of the year; not only is Archy’s vocal extremely distinct, each song has its own specific lyrical purpose. Biscuit town starts the album off with a drifting piano passage and lyrics that explain that he feels he is emotionally sinking, trailing off from the organized lives of his family and friends into his own downward spiral. Logos is a personal moment in the track listing as well. The lyrics explain his mother’s alcoholism and past traumas; a slow, jazzy instrumental and bold, constant drumming back it. In The Locomotive, Archy is standing isolated in the dead of the night, the eerie production adding to the effect of the lyrics.
The production in Cadet Limbo is also a sonic highlight of the album; several horns and pianos slowly layer on top of each other and create a jazz medley. The interludes help the album feel more complete as well; they feel noticeably softer than much of the record, but not so much so that they are out of place or stick out like a sore thumb. They sleepily fade in and out in a brief minute, lyrically providing some of the most compelling lines of the entire album (“Slipping into filth, lonely but surrounded, a new place to drown six feet under the moon”).
Although this record is incredibly unique in its sonic and lyrical landscape in a number of early cuts from the album, the songs start to feel more and more underdeveloped as the album goes on. Songs like A Slide In (New Drugs) and Midnight 01 (Deep Sea Diver) definitely feel like they were just thrown in to take up space and don’t add much of anything to the end product. Although Sublunary has a sirenlike, almost creepy instrumental which adds to record’s loose, unpredictable nature, it feels like a detour that didn’t necessarily need to be there and could have improved if developed into a more complete song. Emergency Blimp’s energetic guitar riff is a nice break from the other spacey passages, but it also doesn’t build up in any sort of exciting way or have production gimmicks that would justify it staying in the final product.
The OOZ definitely would have benefitted from excluding a number of tracks and pushing its experimental elements even further. Although there are still good cuts here, the best aren’t necessarily so exciting that they beg you to come back aside from the context of the entire album. In a few places, Archy’s vocals feel lifeless and completely devoid of passion. This does add to the unsettling feeling of the record to an extent, but it makes fully digesting the album sometimes feel like a chore in combination with its length. It just doesn’t justify being over an hour long, as the high points aren’t so engaging that they prevent the project from being able to easily fade into the background a lot of the time. Still, this is a decent release from King Krule that includes a number of good ideas, and I’m excited to see what he has in store next.