Critical Voices: King Krule, The Ooz

October 24, 2017

British artist Archy Ivan Marshall debuted the stage name King Krule with his album Six Feet Beneath the Moon (2013). Despite the generally positive reception of the album, it was still unclear whether Marshall would continue to distinguish himself much beyond that point. Though his music was undoubtedly unique, he had released Six Feet in the wake of many other albums by artists experimenting with lo-fi in a similar manner, resulting in skepticism over whether these artists would be able to flourish outside of this rapid popularization. Excitingly, Krule’s second album, The Ooz, has proved that he is not just a fad musician.

Each track in The Ooz demonstrates emotional progression and nuance. In an instant, Krule switches from sadly serenading to desperately whaling, as heard in “Slush Puppy.” The tone constantly jolts between dark and aggressive and soft, dreamy, and dissociated, which startlingly and dynamically conveys a sense of persisting self-loathing and restlessness that can only be evaded by depersonalization and isolation. The surprisingly dark album depicts an ongoing cycle of depression, insomnia, and loneliness.

Krule pulls from influences in jazz, post-punk, rock and indie to create a stylistically varied album. His deep, leathery voice is one of the things that makes his music most recognizable, and he switches between singing, speaking, and yelling over thoughtfully devised beats and musical accompaniment. Though he is a naturally talented singer, he chooses to not always sing perfectly, and his vocal imperfections add complexity and personality to his music. The lyrics and instrumentation balance each other and play equally important roles in the development of the album thematically. The incorporation of the saxophone into many of the songs beautifully compliments the electronic tones layered with it and adds a sentiment of nostalgia.

Krule hides a treat for fans of the TV series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia by sampling a bit from its intro theme at the end of the song “Midnight 01 (Deep Sea Diver),” embellishing the song with a piece of cynical and nonchalant humor.

Despite Ooz’s musical beauty, there are a number of instances in which this album is not conventionally pleasant to listen to. In the song “Lonely Blue,” the drums drag excruciatingly and Krule’s vocals are dissonant in the least endearing way possible, making this song almost exhausting to listen to. However, it functions in the overall frame of the album because these elements express the agonizing lifestyle that Krule depicts throughout the work in a meaningful and interesting way. This is not an isolated event in this album—Krule consistently makes use of dissonance, unpolished singing, and hectic instrumentation to convey distress and to contrast the prettier moments in his music.

Krule succinctly captures the theme and plot of the album in its titular track. If this album is an ongoing battle with between self-loathing and forced isolation, this song demonstrates a close encounter with unattainable peace. The song is about Krule finding salvation from his most haunting woes, only to realize that he had been dreaming. It portrays the frustration of trying to retreat to that sublime serenity, confronting the fact that he can only wait for it to return to him. He winds up grappling with the bittersweet futility of happy illusions.

At the end of the day, this is a strong album that harmoniously exhibits an array of musical styles, but it can be a bit harrowing to listen to in its entirety . As a cohesive piece, The Ooz is very interesting and deserves a thoughtful listen from anyone interested, but there are a handful of songs that, standing alone, are not particularly enjoyable. The sense of gloom and acrimony fortified throughout the album serves as a double edged sword because though it so well portrays a unique and interesting narrative, it makes the album slightly inaccessible to those seeking music to enjoy in more light-hearted scenarios.

Voice‘s Choices: “Biscuit Town,” “The Ooz”

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