Archy Marshall is one of those artists who defies categorization. Imagine if Roddy Frame was born in London instead Glasgow and grew up listening to grime and experimental electronic music alongside jazz guitar, and you’d get a sense of Marshall’s outlook on music while still barely scratching the surface. Between his low, south London baritone and the occasionally meandering nature of his compositions, Marshall’s work as King Krule is simply different from just about anything else out there right now.
King Krule’s 2013 debut 6 Feet Under The Moon remains a striking listen, but nothing could have prepared us for the sprawling, fascinating brilliance of The OOZ. Once content to give brief glimpses into his warped psyche, Marshall now has the tools to bring listeners along for a long, ambling journey that they won’t easily forget.
Right from the outset, The OOZ presents itself as a difficult listen. The opening salvos of “Biscuit Town” and “The Locomotive” are swampy, clouded and inscrutable. Marshall’s voice, performed at its deepest register, is inscrutable. It plays into Marshall’s admitted fascination with waste; he seems to take the guise of the lowest of the low, saying “I wish I was people” on “The Locomotive”. Whether Marshall is describing a descent into madness or the corrosive nature of society is unknown, though. Marshall, never one for writing cohesive narratives, doesn’t offer stories so much as brief glimpses and impressions of his world, acting less as a storyteller and more of a passerby on the street trying to connect the dots between unrelated incidents. Despite the fractured nature of its lyrics, The OOZ is quite enveloping; its heady mix of fractured jazz guitar and stuttering beats create a dark, unsettling world in which Marshall’s gunky vignettes come alive.
What’s perhaps most remarkable about The OOZ is its cohesiveness. Given Marshall’s anything-goes approach to songwriting and the album’s length, one could have forgiven The OOZ for being overlong and a little disjointed. However, it is none of these things, not by a long shot. Though Marshall gives his interpretation of everything from languid, lounge-lizard jazz to lo-fi punk, it all feels a part of this swampy whole.
Low-key, slightly experimental material like “The Cadet Leaps” doesn’t feel out of place alongside the more propulsive material like singles “Dum Surfer” and “Half Man Half Shark.” Though it may seem on the surface that Marshall is just chucking whatever he can at the wall and seeing what sticks, he’s actually taking a more deliberate and considered approach, which makes The OOZ all the more impressive of an accomplishment.
For years, Marshall’s work as King Krule focused on the scuzzy underworld of society, on the ugliness that lurks all around as we go about our business. As such, there’s a chance that some listeners might be put off by his work. However, The OOZ is such a comprehensively impressive piece of work that it cannot and should not be ignored. This is, to date, the most complete expression of Marshall’s musical ethos, and it’s done in such an immersive fashion that it’d be foolish not to resist. Nothing released in 2017 so far has sounded anything like The OOZ, and it’s doubtful that anything will be as great, either.