Archy Marshall, more commonly known by his stage name King Krule, singer-songwriter, wunderkind, angelic guitar player with a hellish croon, cockney ginger extraordinaire, has worn many hats and accomplished quite a bit in his brief 23 years on Earth. As King Krule, he released a self-titled EP in 2011 at the age of 17 and his breakout album “6 Feet Beneath the Moon” in 2013 at the age of 19. He also released the 2015 album “A New Place 2 Drown” under his birth name along with a number of random side projects such as Zoo Kid and Edgar the Beatmaker. His unique sound quickly garnered the attention of millions as well as the likes of Frank Ocean and Kanye West. These days it would seem his name precedes him.
For years, critics have attempted to confine King Krule to a genre: indie rock, punk fusion, trip hop, darkwave, jizz jazz and, my personal favorite, PBR&B. He is simultaneously all of those things and none of those things; he is vehemently himself. On each record he cracks open his skull and all of the strange idiosyncrasies swirling around in his mind pour out.
On his new album “The OOZ” the music sounds so eclectically inspired at times I feel as if I totally missed out on entire eras of music from which he leaps. He consistently draws from grunge and jazz. Gruff power chords battle with sensual saxophone. “Dum Surfer” sounds like an alternate reality where Nirvana and Miles Davis collaborated. “Emergency Blip,” “Vidual” and “Half Man Half Shark” provide a ghoulish version of surf rock.
Most of the music on “The OOZ” will cause the listener’s skin to crawl. The album’s title conjures imagery of pus or uncapped tubes of toothpaste. Obscure chords unsettle. Archy’s howl chills bones. Ominous synths loiter in the atmosphere. Textures resemble a deranged mixture of elevator music and noir film scores. I doubt any coincidence with such a notoriously eerie release date. It comes just in time to sneak onto some spooky Halloween party playlists. On “Lonely Blue,” he sings “Cuz our skulls were mush/So please don’t let go of our kingdom of trash/I got high off butane/I was born amidst a wrath/That boy he’s just a puke stain/That girl she made me mutate.”
“The OOZ” inspires memories of “I Don’t Like S—, I Don’t Go Outside,” by Earl Sweatshirt. The two, according to Pitchfork, actually lived together and collaborated during a “monthlong weed-and-beatmaking binge.” Both albums coat their songs in a languid grime. Both albums refuse to compromise. Both artists are 23 years old. Both albums feel like getting way too stoned at 4 p.m., with the curtains drawn and mindless television on, and paranoia flickers as the weight of the world looms.
The album opens with the words “I seem to sink lower.” I often gripe about albums overstaying their welcome. “The OOZ” clocks in at 62:54 over 19 songs, but I did not even realize it until it had completed. It hypnotizes the listener as you slip deeper and deeper underwater into Marshall’s Gothic Atlantis.
The ocean and water in general hold a grand mythos over popular music, such as “Quadrophenia” by The Who and, more recently, “Big Fish” by Vince Staples. In these, sounds of raindrops falling on the pavement, thunder clapping and waves crashing on the shore signify a romantic sense of rebirth. However, on “The OOZ,” it represents a vision of the ocean much murkier, more sea weed infested and terrifyingly vast. Instead of Bikini Bottom it feels more like Rock Bottom.
The album contains themes of loneliness and alienation: a castaway in the middle of a tumultuous sea. On “The Locomotive” he sings “I wish I was equal/If only that simple/I wish I was people,” then later “I’m alone/I’m alone/Deep isolation/In the dead of night.” On the title track he sings “I don’t know why/I searched for you/Could we align/And could we meet here/Until the end of time/Is there anybody out there?” He sings on “Lonely Blue,” “From the deep dark I wandered alone/So for long/Now I’d be glad to see you.”
Marshall has parted ways with any semblance of pop idealism or Gorillaz-goofiness. Thankfully, the twinkling wonder of “6 Feet Beneath the Moon” pops up, most notably on the last three songs: “The OOZ,” “Midnight 01 (Deep Sea Diver)” and “La Lune.” If the preceding songs sound like an oppressive midday smoke sesh, this finale feels like getting wine-drunk in the fresh air and moonlight.
“The OOZ” burns slowly. It may not immediately captivate you. At times it grows incredibly dark and dense and requires some effort to pick apart. It plays out like an ambient mystery the listener has to solve. Some will find this compelling, others a waste of time. However, it stands out as one of the most daring and realized albums of the year, by such a young artist nonetheless. I can’t wait to see where he goes from here.