At 19 years old, Archy Marshall released his first LP as King Krule. The English musician immediately made an impression, roping isolated guitar into a slosh of passionately arranged slacker rock. The allure comes from his marbled baritone, his elongated drawl, bringing poetic lines to life like he’s doing spoken word under an entire bottle of cough syrup. His lyrics and music combine to form an indulgent fusion of jazz and post-punk that’s complicated and sporadic, but sonically light. In the two years that followed, Marshall worked beside his brother, Jack, to create a multidisciplinary body of work that changes up that formula. The songs offered up, in conjunction with said art, unfortunately trod around like dejected trip-hop cuts still rubbing their eyes to wake up. Apparently that warranted a full release as A New Place 2 Drown.
Jack and Archy Marshall worked on A New Place 2 Drown in hopes of highlighting a book, soundtrack, and short film that explore the innards of their daily lives in South London. The book’s photographs document friendships and mundane moments, from nuzzling dogs to shared cigarettes, all of which are captured in a way just inimitable enough to warrant a distinct trademark. The same goes for the poetry listed between pages. Jack and Archy Marshall worked together on 2014’s “Inner City Ooz” project where the two wove live performances, visual art, and music into a single experience. A New Place 2 Drown acts as its follow-up, but experienced on its own, its pieces lose much of their meaning.
Drown in your artwork, in your struggles, in your thoughts: That’s the heart of life for the two brothers on the slightly dirty edge of city limits. But A New Place 2 Drown-era Archy is so caught up in those thoughts that the sounds begin to dissipate, vanishing to a place we can neither visit nor understand. “Buffed Sky” and “Arise Dear Brother” immediately introduce us to his new penchant for unstable hip-hop and electronic tedium — groundless emotion that never quite forms a shape worth pointing towards. The welcoming laughter prefacing “Eye’s Drift” hits like a dream, layering keys over a stuttering drumbeat in a melody that’s only good for transitions. But it’s one of many. “Sex with Nobody”, “New Builds”, and “Swell” play out like rejected beats no one wanted to rap over. They’re all in-the-moment tides, many of which are forgotten mere seconds after a song wraps up.
In the film, the Marshalls’ mother cuts their hair on a chair in their backyard. Giant canvases stretch across an empty cement floor. The two brothers laugh and nudge one another, sharing jokes funny only through the lens of familial bonds. It’s clear they complement one another when on the same page. For Archy, that results in a couple emotive cuts on the album. Seven-minute closer “Thames Water” works its way through multiple suites (including a muted trap beat) before it snaps and ushers in the record’s most immersive and clean-cut electronic sample. “Ammi Ammi” brings in London-based singer and producer Jamie Isaac whose verse echoes like the perky tone of Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor. Even “The Sea Liner Mk 1” strikes unvisited gold thanks to industrial clanking and a smattering of sampled sounds, recalling the work of Andy Stott.
With these three songs, King Krule once again demonstrates his ability to walk firmly between genres, picking up the best of whichever ones he pleases. There’s little punk, if any, present on A New Place 2 Drown. It’s the type of melding that speaks to King Krule’s innovation as a disheveled urbanite who finds hope amidst despair. But this isn’t released under his moniker. This is music created under the role of the supportive brother, and for much of it, he’s too focused on his sibling’s creations to fully flesh out his own work.
Essential Tracks: “Ammi Ammi (feat. Jamie Isaac)”, “Thames Water”