Young Brit, Archie Marshall, a.k.a. King Krule, has already made some noise among indie critics for his sparse and delightfully off-key ballads as Zoo Kid. Picked up by True Panther Sounds, Marshall has released an eponymous EP under his new moniker, King Krule. Already, the music press has made stretched comparisons between Marhsall’s decidedly low anthems and the unsettled youth of London’s recent street riots. While King Krule does offer a fair dose of adolescent disillusionment, attempts to lasso him to larger cultural movements seem to be nothing more than a way to give this small and endearing release some broader context. Not to say that Archie Marshall isn’t politically motivated – I wouldn’t know – but his music divulges a more attractive introverted personality than one of cultural largess.
Upon a first listen, King Krule’s voice is the first element of his music that perks the ears. It’s not exactly a flattering voice, but much like Lou Reed’s mid-range hollering and cooing, it’s becoming because of its own imperfections. Perhaps it’s no mistake that the first track, dubbed “Intro”, is merely a two-minute instrumental, putting off Krule’s debut. As you move through the EP, hearing Marshall at both vocal extremes (his comfortable flow on “Bleak Blake” and vocal insecurities when he steps back from the mic to wail “I question why” on “The Noose of Jah City”), the dust settles on the needle and you allow yourself to dig into his dark, spacious instrumentation.
A long-time home recorder, King Krule is decidedly under-produced. The entire 5-song EP clocks in at a whopping 13 minutes total. Two of the tracks “Intro” and “Lead Existence” almost seem like afterthoughts, half-formed ideas placed on the record as filler as opposed the products of minimalist inclinations. The King Krule EP feels rushed as a release. The first many of us heard of Marshall was from his triumphant debut at the CMJ Music Marathon in NYC, and now, here it is, not nearly a month after and we’ve had an official debut EP.
For all that King Krule EP lacks (either intentionally or not), it still shimmers with beautiful potential at various points. Notably, the first lines you hear uttered from Marshall’s deep, trembling voice (other than an off microphone cough) are “Couldn’t wake up this morning, believe me,” and you’re instantly hooked. He can also be wordy. The rather bulky phrase “Spastic gyrations in abbreviated bathing suits,” kicks off the lackluster “Portrait in Black and Blue”. His stream-of-conscious lyricism is reasonably mature for such a young age.
If there is any reason why King Krule released this EP so quickly, with so little production and general lack of content, it was to give the song “The Noose of Jah City” an appropriate frame. It’s easily the most well-crafted and studied song on the album. Lyric and music cooperate to create an air of uneasy euphoria as King Krule’s vocals seems to float into the phrase “It eats away the brain…” Just listen.