WRITTEN BY: Paul Burke
Archy Marshall, aka Zoo Kid, aka Edgar the Beatmaker, aka King Krule, is back with his third studio album. Whatever you want to call him, the 23 year old from London has been a driving force in indie music ever since his critically acclaimed 2013 debut 6 Feet Beneath the Moon. His new record titled The OOZ, dropped on October 13th on XL Recordings, following up his 2015 effort A New Place 2 Drown. His first two albums feature an array of sounds, both of which take a fairly minimalist approach. Most tracks on 6 Feet Beneath the Moon center around of a wall of reverb-soaked guitar tracks, soft keyboards, and subtle synthetic percussion, all under a jazzy guise. A New Place 2 Drown takes a complete 180, ditching the live instruments for a more electronic, almost hip-hop sound. A New Place also features a much more dark and dreary tone than 6 Feet.
However, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon and A New Place 2 Drown are just appetizers for the meal that is The OOZ. The OOZ is a hefty 19 tracks, and clocks in at just over an hour. Symbolically, it serves as a culmination of all of Krule’s past works. Right off the bat, he constructs 6 Feet-esque jazz arrangements for the first four tracks, but delivers them in the gloomy, depressing, tone that was so present on A New Place. The strongest example of this sonic blend comes from the third track and lead single, “Dum Surfer.” The song starts in true Krule fashion, with eerie ambient noise and distant echoing voices lurking through the first 30 seconds. The vocals and the rest of the band eventually jump in and begin to fill out the song with driving distorted bass and drums overtop of another distant, creeping guitar track. It eventually builds and breaks through to a more tasteful jazz progression with guitar and saxophone at the forefront. But with each change and transition, a certain spooky, frightening tone still lingers throughout, giving “Dum Surfer” the feeling of a modern-day “Monster Mash” masked with heavy jazz influences.
In addition to the sinister delivery Krule displays on “Dum Surfer,” almost all of the lyrical content on The OOZ sits under an umbrella of darkness. Recurring themes include depression, loneliness, and heartbreak. One of the more powerful tracks on the record, “The Locomotive,” constructs Archy as a ticking time bomb that can’t take anymore from anyone. The track follows a meandering tempo that alternates between soft and loud, and builds until Krule is eventually yelling at the top of his lungs. “Plagued by our brains, the eternal sinking pain / I wish I was equal, if only that simple,” is just one of many depressing lines from this chilling track. It seems as though Krule has been crawling in and out of a depressive state for the past 5 years, and he has given us a front row seat to his therapy sessions with each and every release.
Two of the most important themes that continue to pop up in his music are elements of space, and bodies of water. Aside from the titles of his first two records being influenced by these themes, there are nearly a dozen tracks of his that reference space or water in their title. On The OOZ, King Krule constructs himself as the space cadet that we meet on tracks “Cadet Limbo” and “The Cadet Leaps.” On the first of these two, we find our cadet floating through space without a care in the world, completely enthralled with his partner. Perhaps Krule wishes to be the figure on the album cover, shooting through space. On the flip side, our space cadet has spent quite some time as the “deep sea diver” mentioned on the track “Midnight 01” and various others across his career. As Krule longs to experience lasting bliss floating through space, he is constantly pulled back down and left to drown in a whirlpool of depression. But as the gloomy rollercoaster of emotions that is The OOZ comes to an end, our pal Archy ascends back up to a familiar place: the moon. The appropriately named closer “La Lune” features a soft singing Krule over a beautiful array of guitar work, and sends off listeners with a warm feeling, perhaps forgetting about how truly dark the rest of the album feels.
In short, this is another very solid release from King Krule. It’s nothing extraordinary, but it’s no poor performance and will ultimately keep his batting average relatively high. That being said, there is a lot that could have been done to improve the overall cohesiveness of the record. It has been no secret that Krule’s song structures are typically unconventional, but there are interludes and entire songs here that feel out of place and disrupt the flow of the album. One could say that the quick changes in sound and style could reflect Krule’s frantic mind, but this messy, unorganized structure doesn’t always work. The fact that some of the songs and ideas take so long to develop makes me lose interest at times. It’s a lot to digest, and it definitely can feel jumbled. Nonetheless, King Krule still has the indie music world in palm of his hand. If he hadn’t already proven himself as one of music’s most innovative, creative, talented songwriters, The OOZ will without a doubt do the trick.
Favorite Tracks: The Locomotive, Dum Surfer, Czech One, The OOZ, Midnight 01 (Deep Sea Diver), La Lune
Listen to The OOZ and King Krule’s past releases on Spotify, Apple Music, and all of your other favorite streaming platforms.