London is a melting pot, sure, but Peckham is something else. There are Nigerian fashion retailers mixed with Jamaican chicken shacks; down the road there are cult-like gatherings where British youth reminisce about the days before CCTV monitored the top deck of buses. It’s a bizarre place, and a fitting home for Archy Marshall — a scraggly white kid with red hair, who cites J Dilla and Fela Kuti with equal reverence.
Archy’s broad range of influences lends itself naturally to his scattered musical identity. His most acclaimed work is as King Krule, the enigmatic guitarist we haven’t seen since 2013, but he’s also Edgar The Beatmaker (Soundcloud producer), DJ JD Sports (Macbook rapper), Zoo Kid (depressed high schooler) and of course Archy Marshall (so far, a lo-fi cloud rapper).
His latest effort as King Krule, The OOZ, is largely characterized by the radio silence that preceded it. Since we’ve last seen him, he’s aged, fallen in and out of love, rapped with rappers and smoked in his ever-changing native Peckham. On “A Slide (In New Drugs)” he quips “The cityscape, bourgeoisie change to replicate / How can I be feeling the same as you?”
It’s been four years, but he’s by and large the same as he once was. Where on 6 Feet Beneath The Moon Archy would yell at the sky, The OOZ sees him kick rocks through a cloud of smoke. While the years have certainly eroded the more explosive musical tendencies of his youth, the album features some of his clearest and sharpest songwriting to date.
At 17 he already had the perspective of a twice-divorced man, but now at 23, the pool of experience he draws from has grown even more burdensome. The album is his best attempt at letting it out, or perhaps letting us in, and while it’s not exactly a “happy place,” the incessant “ooz” of day-to-day life presents a challenge you simply learn to get on with.
On album-opener “Biscuit Town,” he rhymes “Gianfranco Zola” with “I think she thinks I’m bipolar”; his thoughts dart through his South London upbringing on inhale and move to relationships on exhale.
At times it’s hard to tell if his intense ruminations are really just melodramatic grouses. On “Vidual” he grumbles “I put my trust in many things but now I know that’s dumb / So I don’t trust anyone, only get along with some / Saw that girl again one time and now I know it’s done”. It’s all just a bit passé for a 23 year old.
There are a lot of these soft murmurs on this album, but for the first time, there’s some absolute belting too, as we’d seen earlier this year on Mount Kimbie’s “Blue Train Lines.” At first pass it’s difficult to make sense of him screaming “I wish I was people!” on “Locomotive,” but honestly, when shit goes pear-shaped, wouldn’t you love to be “people,” too? Other brash instances, like his “Half man with a body of a shark” chant (16 times over), are slightly more bewildering.
Archy front-loads most of the album’s flashpoints, like a guitar solo on “Dum Surfer” that sounds like you’re hearing it for the first time, every time. Later in the song he conjures imagery of him puking on the sidewalk before getting in a cab with a Slovakian girl.
Though “Dum Surfer” is his only “night out” on the album, most of the songs take place on nights where the darkness just swallows him whole. It’s less lad culture debauchery and more anxious rambling about relationships, family and self-doubt.
“Logos” for example, would not have been so out of place on Frank Ocean’s Endless (it’s similar in that way to his fantastic EP, A New Place 2 Drown). “I call my mum / She stumbles home / Through open ground / Back to broken homes” sounds like it’s being recited while sinking into his couch. Sonically, the song deviates from his traditional synth and guitar composition, adding elements of jazz he’s cited but never quite recreated until now.
That sinking feeling never leaves The OOZ, and the only thing that oscillates over the course of the album is his willingness to reach for others. Much of the album is about finding out if what you need is time alone or more time with someone else.
The drunk keys of “Czech One” bring with them the centerpiece of the album — a woozy song of lust, isolation and directionless passing of time. “She asked me why I’m here / But I come here every night / Do you need to tell her something? / No, I need a place to write”. In one verse, he “drown[s] too quick,” “fade[s] out of sight” and yet, “he still search[es] for warmth.”
In the music video, for a moment, he actually levitates over the pavement of Bermondsey; in a way, that’s what he’s been doing for the past five years. He’s always been floating in the middle, somewhere in-between. He’s five aliases at once. He’s “half man half shark,” half where he wants to be and half crumbling, physically present but mentally disintegrating.
The OOZ makes you question if it’s even worth getting up. It obscures what you think you know, because sometimes those downward spirals are just harsh realities you’d rather not believe. Sometimes it isn’t too bad to be true though — it’s just plain true. The OOZ is what lures you further into the couch. Sometimes that’s just where you need to be.