Album art courtesy of King Krule
Review by Alex Rodriguez
23-year-old musician from South Britain, Archy Marshall, comes back four years after his last album released under the moniker “King Krule” to take his listeners on another voyage across the deep, the blue and the lonely. In The OOZ, his most extensive album yet, he colors a sunken and disturbed sleep that doesn’t quite fit into a specific music genre. Like the effortlessly-cool and inherently-dark Marshall, The OOZ combines strums of jazz with punk-stricken beats, creating sounds that range from melodic guitar riffs to trip-hop.
As a whole The OOZ is emblematic of Archy Marshall’s internal and historical struggle with mental illness. In his youth, Marshall suffered from insomnia and was sent to two education centres for excluded children (for kids with emotional, behavioural or social difficulties), since he refused to attend school. Tormented by long, aimless nights, it was clear that Marshall led a difficult childhood. He even addressed his distrust and disapproval of the doctors, psychiatrists, counselors and social workers at the centre in an interview with The Guardian stating that they were “plain wrong” concerning his diagnosis. Nevertheless, as listeners, we can deduce that doubts concerning his mental stability still plague him, as he writes: “perhaps the emotive rush turned my brain to mush, I’ll never know.” Through his music, we experience alongside him his chaotic and obscured mentality, his states of anguish, anxiety, frustration and depression. His songs translate abstract loneliness into sounds that resonate in the darkest corners of our minds. In each song, we drift slowly into a state of dissociation, forced to face our own ineffective attempts to connect with others - a lyric from one of his songs reads, “you’re shallow waters, I’m the deep seabed.” In the end, in a multitude of projections of loneliness, Marshall is also accepting of his character, stating: “I got more moons wrapped around my head and Jupiter knows.”
He opens The OOZ with the track “Biscuit Town,” a set of smooth revolutions of sound that narrate a frustrated interaction with a girl as they walk toward her residence in “Biscuit Town”. He forges his soundscape by classically combining mellow ambient beats with his rough, low-pitched vocals. Later in the album, the song “The Locomotive” paints a discordant picture of isolation and desperation — the voice of a haunted mind wanting to relate to others. Here, Marshall employs his signature aggressive singing style over a somber guitar riff, compelling us to question our position relative to others and to confront the place where “we all have our evils”.
Next, in a sudden change of rhythm, one of my personal favorite tracks on the album, “Dum Surfer”, spans out with sinister vocals over fine-tuned sounds. In what arises like an ominous cold wind, the song begins to slowly come together with laughter of insanity setting the stage for an incredibly poetic and disorienting narrative. The track then proceeds to tell the story of a drunken night of low-lit rooms and European cabs, all over a beat to which you can’t help but bang your head. “Dum Surfer” is then interjected by brief guitar and saxophone solos, with which Marshall is able to construct a complex sound of both beauty and diluted madness. What is more, the title of the song, “Dum Surfer” could be meant to be phonetically similar to both “dumb surfer” and “don’t suffer”, as the lyrics at the end of the song suggest.
The OOZ also interweaves brief interludes of spoken poetry in the tracks “Bermondsey Bosom (Left)” and “Bermondsey Bosom (Right)”. The former, a short poem in Spanish recited by Beatriz Ortiz Mendes, epitomizes much of King Krule’s characteristic imagery, while alluding to previous album titles, from “seis pies bajo la luna” or “six feet below the moon” to “negro y azul” or “black and blue”. At the same time, she expresses how Marshall’s music is solely about himself.
At the end of the record, in the song “La lune”, he returns to the moon, pairing enigmatic lyrics with somber sounds of falling rain and a gentle guitar riff; in one of his most inimitable lines, he depicts how “brave waves bathe the eye.”
Instrumentally, The OOZ encompasses an array of instruments that make up King Krule’s unique and distinct sound; lyrically, he continues to incite the disturbing self-reflective thoughts that plague most of us, while speaking merely for himself. The OOZ is the grimy, the opaque, the surreal and according to Archy Marshall himself, the most rudimentary of human experiences. As he told NPR Music: “for me [it] represents…your sweat, your nails, the sleep that comes out of your eyes, your dead skin…It’s kind of about refining the subconscious creations that you do constantly.” Indeed, the album is a collection of narratives of the subconscious states that lie underneath sober, inebriated, lonely and futile pursuits that loom in our day-to-day realities. The soundtrack is the type to invoke the feeling of loneliness that loiters like a shadow at the soles of our feet, but it will nevertheless fill with beauty that inevitable part of the human experience.