King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
Released: August 24, 2013
Label: True Panther, XL Recordings
Producer: Rodaidh McDonald, Archy Marshall
Genre: Indie Rock, Soul Jazz
01 Easy Easy
03 Has This Hit?
04 Foreign 2
06 Baby Blue
08 A Lizard State
09 Will I Come
10 Ocean Bed
11 Neptune Estate
12 The Krockadile
13 Out Getting Ribs
14 Bathed in Grey
The best thing to do is listen to the album first and then take a look at this 19-year-old Londoner Archy Marshall. He has the pale and frail features of Ronald Weasly but a voice that could crush your knees. On his earliest recording, first as Zoo Kid and then as King Krule, he focused on solely singular and haunting sound, mainly his voice, accompanied by nothing more than some jazz chords and a broken sounding guitar. He sounded alone but without the comfort that sometimes solitude gives you. “My heart got hold of my head and ripped it to its seams,” he sang on “Bleak Bake”, a representative sentiment.
Marshall recorded those early songs on a malfunctioning laptop; now he’s on XL Recordings, working with producer Rodaidh McDonald. 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, his full-length debut, sounds roomier and warmer, and you can hear the music echo into the expansive room tone that McDonald brings to his work. But otherwise it’s the same chipped and broken down black-and-white urban landscape that dominates over his EP King Krule. There’s not much change there. But maybe it’s that and those raw nerves that make his worthy of his title as the representative of the London urban youth. Angry but confused, loud yet uncertain. He also included some breaks in his album without straining too far away from his usual tone. Working with XL gave him a chance to fully explore various styles he’s into. The drum track on “Ceiling” that sounds like a broken sprinkler; the muted jazz loop of “Bathed In Grey,” the chirping “I just want you to know” vocal sample in “Will I Come.” Likened maybe to Morrissey and Edwyn Collins. Stylistically he has been described as darkwave and is inspired by disparate influences such as Gene Vincent, Fela Kuti and The Penguin Cafe Orchestra. I can spot a little J Dilla in there too. But you’ll say, what urban youth wasn’t influenced by him?
He pushes his voice even more here to the snarliest gnarls and screeches, without making you unaware of the tenderness and sensitivity in his songs. Fragile but intelligent in design and context. My favorite in this album (I knew it was before the album was over) was the lovable and drunken ballad “Baby Blue”. Marshall has name-checked Chet Baker in interviews, and you can hear in “Baby Blue” what Baker’s influence means to him.
I need to talk about the lyrics on this album. King Krule usually talks about clichés. “When positivity seems hard to reach/ I keep my mouth shut/ Because when you’re going through Hell/ You just keep going,” he yowls on “Easy Easy”. The lyrics read terribly, but even these “Hang in There” clichés are intriguingly dented by the sound of his voice. Actually his voice can make anything sound good. And you can tell he loves rap, not only by the breaks and the nu-jazzy vibes of the album, but by the way his lyrics are able to sometimes automatically re-manifest themselves in your brain, as rap lyrics. “The brain lives on but the vibes are dead/ Corrosively tread through emotionally spoofed purpose,” from “Neptune Estate”.
But sometimes the lyrics go to far. With an addition of Tom Waits he yells “Where’s the fucking fat bitches” and “I’m gonna tear you apart from the inside to the out” on “Lizard State”. That’s some of his least appealing lyrics ever but hey! He’s an angry teen, give him some credit. Some of his earlier material is included (“Out Getting Ribs” and “Ocean Bed”) and it still rings out as some of his strongest work.
Towards the end of the album, (11th track I think) I believe the only thing that kept me going was his soul-wrenching voice I guess. Over the course of the entire album the sound loses some of its essential mystique. Don’t get me wrong Marshall, I love your staff, but I think you’ve got greater things ahead of you.
Watch the video for “Out Getting Ribs”: