Album review: King Krule – The Ooz

You may know producer / singer / songwriter Archy Marshall by his own name, or very likely under one of his aliases; King Krule, Edgar the Beatmaker, DJ JD Sports or Zoo Kid. This year, he releases The Ooz under the King Krule alias for the first time since 2013’s 6 Feet Beneath The Moon when he was the tender age of 19. But is it a return to form or something new? Read on…

Marshall returns to his former alias that broke him, to release a diverse 19 tracker via True Panther Sounds and XL Recordings, who have also housed a variety of music from giants such as The Prodigy, Thom Yorke, Jamie xx, Dizzee Rascal, Adele and countless others.

Marshall’s voice is not always the star of the show on previous works. Vocally, you may sometimes struggle to hear him, whereas elsewhere it holds more importance. Lyrically, he keeps the listener at a safe distance, choosing to leave more of a trail of clues rather than playing his hand too early. The stories and themes on The Ooz will often keep you guessing, and some will keep you completely in the dark, as he references insomnia and medication, as well as writing a song around the idea of a restless half man, half shark…

The album is head and shoulders above what he has managed to release as of yet, and with this confident new approach he welcomes the limelight, highlighting his vocals more so than ever before. Marshall’s charming, off-key guitar strums and licks also make an appearance once again, with their usual naive, infectious imperfections. Instead of letting others produce for or alongside him, Marshall has opted to take matters almost completely into his own hands on The Ooz. This independence has lead to some of his finest craftsmanship yet, no doubt utilising the skills which he has picked up over his relatively short career. His solo outlook has in turn created a rather lonely sound, one that echoes themes of isolation.

The Ooz is as much about the bass content as it is about vocals, with bottomless sub weight driving many of its arrangements. These underwater journeys reach immense depths, but are topped with light, floating jazz keys and synths. It appears almost genre-less overall, weather you love punk, trip-hop, dub, R&B or jazz, you should find some sort of common ground.

On the album’s opener “Biscuit Town”, we hear the Londoner question his own mental health; ‘I think we might be bipolar / I think she thinks I’m bipolar’. It is a bold introduction with a vintage feel, from the vocal processing to the dusty drum kit, guitars and keys. This track is a particularly strong start, full of intrigue and nostalgia that urges you to take note. As the psychedelic, shimmering, sliding sonics appear on “The Locomotive”, it is immediately apparent that not every track will be quite as straight forward. With purposefully sloppy Pete Doherty-esque vocals and guitars to match, it is much more off-key, ranging from punk shouts, to jazz dissonance, all the way through to sci-fi sound design.

The album drifts in and out of each track, and as we wash up on the shores of the short interlude entitled “Slush Puppy”, Marshall channels some quirky Radiohead influence. For every moment of madness there always seems to be a ray of light, breaking through the clouds. Much like the even shorter interlude that follows, it’s a calming, hypnotising piece where instead of Marshall’s voice we hear a speech from what appears to be a Spanish lady. What follows could be influenced by Spanish rhythms, which is unlikely to be a coincidence. ‘I call my mum / she stumbles home / through open ground / back to broken homes‘ is just one of the many fantastically written lines, and on “Logos”, Marshall proves himself as an accomplished poet. It is incredibly musically masterful as well, pairing his low vocal tones with a variety of woodwinds and keyboards.

At the album’s core is a number of loose, spacious songs that struggle to match the brilliance of “Logos”, until “Emergency Blimp” arrives as one of the rockier tracks, his wavering voice is both rough and smooth at times, topping a punk inspired guitar section, lots of ugly distortion and dissonant feedback. For those who are easily offended, they will be glad to hear the jazzy, R&B smoothness that follows on the previously teased single, “Czech One”.

The sheer quantity of delectable sounds on The Ooz means he is able to serve up tougher subject matter, without ruining the listening experience. Marshall uses more challenging aspects of traditional punk music to shock, but by pairing them with the softer sounds of jazz and R&B, the result is magical. The album is far from perfect, and is by no means the smoothest journey, but the bumps in the road are worth it, especially when listening to somebody as interesting as King Krule. Come and dive into the alien word of Archy Marshall at your local Richer Sounds today!