‘The Voice of a Generation’. It’s a tag that is banded around with relative ease by critics and more often than not an all too heavy a burden to carry. All the more difficult is following up a critically acclaimed debut album, a further task faced by Archy Marshall under his best known pseudonym, King Krule. Such is the fanfare and anticipation surrounding every project Marshall undertakes that it’s easy to forget he’s still just 23 years of age.
‘The OOZ’, coming a substantial four years after ‘6 Feet Beneath The Moon’, is everything Marshall’s fans could’ve hoped for and more in a second King Krule album. A dense and gloriously messy genre-defying hour and seven minutes that requires multiple listens to truly unpick and digest all its idiosyncrasies and wonderfully weird flourishes. The snotty young South Londoner’s trademark lurid sneers and observations are laid atop a meandering, ambitious soundscape that drifts through trip-hop, punk jazz and indie rock. It’s no wonder he turned down Kanye’s offer of collaboration, he probably didn’t have the time amongst weaving together such a rich tapestry of sounds and painstakingly detailed lyrics, this time putting his city and own psyche under the microscope.
The jazz influence is heard from the outset as Marshall paints a picture of a morbid, urban backdrop filled with seedy characters and acute pop culture references over a darkly seductive oscillating synth soundscape, spitting out lines like: “I think we might be bipolar, I think she thinks I’m bipolar / He left the crime scene without the Motorola, still had dreams of being Gianfranco Zola” on the beguiling opener ‘Biscuit Town’.
Sonically ‘The OOZ’ is an unrelenting behemoth that goes toe to toe with Marshall’s scarred and honest turn of phrase. Marshall himself describes the record as being inspired by “earwax and snot and bodily fluids and skin and stuff that just comes out of you on a day to day basis,” something he’s strangely successful in conveying. There’s a sense of menace that lurks behind the jazz bar piano and sardonic saxophone of tracks like ‘Logos’ and the brutally honest ‘Lonely Blue’, while the toxic, doomy surf rock of ‘Dum Surfer’ has a venomous sting and oozing dirge to its delivery.
Elsewhere things only get darker as Marshall grapples with his own demons and sense of suffering to the slow-tempo jazz of forlorn lead single ‘Czech One’ and reflective synths on ‘The Cadet Leaps’, before soft-toned guitar chords transcend to kaleidoscopic cacophony on the experimental ‘(A Slide In) New Drugs’. There’s a poignancy to the songwriting on ‘The OOZ’ with Marshall’s sense of self-loathing illustrated with such uniquely inspired turns of phrase. “Why’d you leave me? Because of my depression? / You used to complete me but I guess I learnt a lesson,” Marshall laments on the pain-filled, confessional ‘Midnight 01 (Deep Sea Diver)’ — another track that so perceptively captures the agony of dealing with one’s own sense of inadequacy.
Marshall takes the listener on a spiralling journey through wandering bass lines on ska-influenced ‘Vidual’ to the melancholic ambience of ‘Bermondsey Bosom (Right)’, with its intermittent poetic spoken word section and saxophone flourishes, back through the chaotic jazz chug of ‘Half Man Half Shark’, a song as deliriously confused as its perplexing title, skipping through time signatures and genre stylings. An experience that’s never as headache-inducing as it may sound. In fact, it’s this sonic experimentalism and eccentricity that warrants repeat listens in order to truly penetrate the record’s dense layers.
While its disorientating nature and vast stature may threaten to intimidate casual listeners, those who stick with Marshall’s sophomore record as King Krule will be given a unique and immersive insight into his hazy world. A world where the extremes are intertwined. Where the dreamy and romantic sits beside the gritty and the grimy. Such is the expanse of the work it sometimes feels as if it threatens to collapse under the weight of its own extensive network of themes and ideas. ‘The OOZ’ is undoubtedly another thought-provoking entry into the discography one of Britain’s most exciting and challenging young artists. An intense, yet rewarding listen.
Words: Rory Marcham
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