by: Melissa Dalarossa
Four years after releasing his breakthrough album Six Feet Under the Moon, Archy Marshall, under the alias King Krule, is back with The Ooz, a strong follow-up that further establishes him as a vocally unique and self-possessed musician.
Coming in at an hour and six minutes, The Ooz takes us alternately through the grit and chaos of the city, the bleak depths of the ocean, and the overwhelming vastness of outer space, with each location exacerbating the feelings of loneliness and hopelessness that Marshall croons and spits about in his sophomore endeavor. Along with motifs such as the ocean, the moon and the color blue, these themes are prominently featured on both The Ooz and 6 Feet Beneath the Moon; however, this album manages to deliver a more complex, mature sound, offering a cohesiveness that its predecessor lacked.
The sultry opening track, “Biscuit Town,” touches on mental illness and dreams deferred, anchored by a thumping beat that gives way to woozy guitars and a sluggish tempo in “The Locomotive,” where, as he waits for the train, Marshall reflects on the pervasive evil of humanity:
We all have our evils
We’re told just to keep calm
Curled up and feeble
Plagued by our brains, the internal sinking pain.
It’s these kinds of dark, futile daydreams that Marshall says The Ooz focuses on, telling NPR that, “…the record’s kind of about the monotony of day to day. Falling back into your head, being taken with your thoughts into a different place… it’s kind of about refining the subconscious creations that you do constantly.”
In Marshall’s case, the “subconscious creations” manifest themselves through grim and unsettling imagery that, although familiar, is far darker than that of 6 Feet Beneath the Moon. On “Logos,” among swirling synths and saxophones that play up the rough jazz he dabbled in on his debut album, he intones, “I caught my mum, she stumbles home/Through open ground, back to broken homes.” “Emergency Blimp” recalls a grittier, more frenzied version of the Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979,” featuring a “sniggering” doctor who prescribes sleeping pills that do nothing to cure Krule’s insomnia. “These pills just make me drool,” he complains to the agitated beat of the drums. And in “Dum Surfer,” Marshall’s second single, he barrels through two verses that describe a chaotic night out as layered saxophones and guitars work together over crisp percussion to create a full, rich texture.
These bleak, episodic portrayals of “everyday” life make up their fair share of the album, but it’s inescapable solitude that proves to be the basis for the majority of The Ooz’s tracks. Marshall’s signature baritone swings between desperate and jaded as he contemplates his utterly hopeless situation. Yet there are moments of tender heartache that punctuate stark pessimism, as on “La Lune,” a stripped-down and soft-spoken track that’s been around since 6 Feet Beneath the Moon. “See I was raised to the moon/Just to hold a gaze with you,” sings Krule, and on “Lonely Blue,” a heavy, winding track, you can just hear him murmur:
The sky was blue
And high above the moon was new.
This eager heart of mine was singing lover come back to me
Lover, lover come back to me.
The OOZ is unforgiving and unrelenting, bathed in a cold, blue light that illuminates only unending pain and despair. But it is also a display of all the best in Krule, who takes his raw talent and refines it to deliver a work rich in texture and cryptic lyricism. Whether he’s singing about lost love or crippling bouts of loneliness, floating through space or stumbling through the city, Krule maintains a focus that drives forward his most powerful work yet.