Archy Marshall AKA King Krule, Edgar the Beatmaker, The Return of Pimp Shrimp, DJ JD Sports, can legitimately claim to be one of the UK’s most influential artists. Aged 19, he paved the way for miserable men fond of jazz chords on ‘Six Feet Beneath the Moon’ and since then has put to use his considerable production and beatmaking chops.
With 2017’s ‘The Ooz’, a sprawling, despondent odyssey, he won new disciples. As Faze Miyake put it recently on Twitter: “King Krule is a g he made bare man start doing all that Indie singing stuff & he makes sick beats on the side. Ledge.” His signature sound – informed by scuzzy punk, dub and lethargic hip-hop alike – has become murkier with each release, but it can be hard to predict the form it’ll lend itself to.
What of ‘Man Alive!’, then? His third album as King Krule, it’s at times more concise and energised than ‘The Ooz’, but there is a certain continuity with the past. Marshall is still angsty; unsurprisingly, he runs with the recurring themes of loneliness, almost nihilistic self-doubt, miscommunication, misconnections and missed connections. He breaks from it by sometimes striking simultaneously a more tender note, informed by fatherhood, love and time spent away from the Big Smoke.
‘Man Alive!’ features more fleshed-out versions of ‘Perfecto Miserable’, ‘Alone, Omen 3’, ‘(Don’t Let the Dragon) Draag On’ and ‘Energy Fleets’ from last autumn’s ‘Hey World!’ video. There, Charlotte Patmore’s filmmaking provided a salve to the rawness of his performance. The album invites the listener to seize upon the cinematic quality Marshall proffers – part of his music’s power lies in its ability to conjure up such potent scenes, and he would do well to score a film. King Krule is an aesthetic project as much as it is a musical one. It can be hermetic and self-centred, and it doesn’t foster collaboration, although he worked briefly here with Nilüfer Yanya and saxophonist Ignacio Salvadores. The posture he adopts can sometimes grate, but it’s hard not to admire its constancy and cohesiveness.
Within it, there are enough facets to appeal to fans old and new. Just as on ‘The Ooz’, away from its punkier singles, Marshall shines when he has more space to breathe and when there’s more space between his words. He fills this with all manner of buzzy synths, whirring, snatches of dialogue and city noise. His patch of South London is in his music, on ‘Comet Face’ especially. It’s inescapable. After the snarl of the first four tracks, what follows is romantic, woozy, melancholy and twistedly contented in unequal, jagged measure, woven loosely together by some common threads.
‘Man Alive!’ is an absorbing consolidation of Marshall’s inimitable sound.
Words: Wilf Skinner
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