Archy Marshall: A New Place 2 Drown
Alternative & IndieDance & Electronica...
XL Recordings, True Panther
Archy Marshall – better known to some as King Krule – is one of the most exciting young artists in the world today. His debut LP, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, found its way to the top of many album of the year lists in 2013, combining simple lo-fi guitar-based production with lyrics concerning anxiety, mental illness and isolation amongst other things. Taking a step back from the King Krule persona, so to speak, Mr. Marshall has decided to release this album under his real name. Is this divergence a sign of maturation or evolution? Or will it turn out to be a failed experiment?
The opening track, ‘Any God of Yours’, drones into life, bringing some trap-style drum beats along with it. This is by all means an ambient opener, setting the tone for the rest of the album with light vocal accents there to bring the human aspect back to the forefront, but still brings some complexity with light buzzy synth lines that would not sound out of place on an Aphex Twin record.
The following track, ‘Swell’, brings what appear to be disparate themes and styles together into what ends up being quite a disturbing beauty. The vocals have a vague shoegazey tinge, fading in and out of the nu-soul instrumentation, all underlined with a solid spine of more of that trappy drum magic. All of this is underscored with lyrics that are difficult to understand, but what you can glean is emotional and raw, with lines like “F*ck my mental health” giving a rare insight into the mind of a young tortured genius.
The album as a whole is in fact a collaborative project by Archy and his brother Jack, with the physical album containing a book of poetry and art created by the Marshall brothers and the album itself containing references to the brotherly collaboration, with track titles like ‘Arise Dear Brother’. The narrative of the album itself is, by design, rather murky and difficult to understand, but it appears to concern itself with a dysfunctional yet passionate relationship and nowhere is this clearer than the aforementioned Arise Dear Brother. The slightly out of time, almost fractured production adds an discomforting yet slightly familiar element, almost as if there is a drug-fueled element to the ostensibly ‘romantic’ relationship on display.
This LP is one of the clearest examples of how broad Marshall’s influences are and the effect they have on his style. The deep cut track, ‘Sex with Nobody’, is the clearest example of this. The pitch-shifted vocals recall a UK garage vibe, with the sharp breakbeat style drums adding a light IDM vibe and the spoken-word style vocal delivery reminiscent of punk-poets like John Cooper Clarke. This multifarious style shows a maturity well beyond Marshall’s 21 years. This continues once again on the track, ‘The Sea Liner MK1’, this time adding a funk style sample and ending with big bassy 2-Step tones as the track fades out.
The album ends with the 7-minute long, ‘Thames Water’, featuring King Krule. That’s right, it’s literally Archy Marshall featuring Archy Marshall. Considering the fact that Archy Marshall and King Krule are two quite distinct acts, it actually is a quite powerful statement. The vocal delivery is less muddled and faded, and more in keeping with Marshall’s earlier output. It would also be a disservice to the rest of the album not to touch on the theme of mental illness present throughout, and this act of disassociating the two identities is rather incredible.
Far too often when an act tries something different to what got them to the table, it can end rather badly. If it goes well, they run the risk of alienating fans of the earlier style and if it goes badly, it can often mean career suicide. It’s a testament to the tremendous ability of Marshall that not only did it go well, it has ended with what may in fact be the best album of the year. Very few people have managed to make electronic production feel this personal.