Oscar-nominated New York actor Lucas Hedges recently told The Observer about the “formative influence” he took from King Krule, adding: “Me and my best friend wanted nothing more than to be like King Krule.” Hedges certainly wasn’t alone in worshipping Archy Marshall during the latter’s rise to prominence in the early 2010s. Fuelled by the likes of his raw, precocious early single ‘Out Getting Ribs’ (released under his former moniker Zoo Kid), a self-titled EP in 2021 and his 2013 debut ‘6 Feet Beneath The Moon’, Marshall promptly amassed a fervent following who took his washed-out guitar sound, trademark husky vocals and withering, wise-beyond-his-years worldview to heart.
The south Londoner’s sizable fanbase may have since plateaued, but for the devoted, the excitement surrounding a new King Krule release remains. Marshall’s fourth King Krule album ‘Space Heavy’ follows on from 2020’s ‘Man Alive!’, a tense yet arguably optimistic record (by King Krule standards, anyway) that had its potential somewhat curtailed by the misfortune of being released a month before the world went into lockdown. In the time since, Marshall has released a live album, covered John Lennon and started splitting his time between his London hometown and Liverpool.
The latter development provided the basis for ‘Space Heavy’, which took shape between 2020 and 2022 during Marshall’s commutes between the two cities. Both locations are represented on the album, from the comforting distant sound of seagulls that closes its gliding, Blur-reminiscent lead single ‘Seaforth’ (named after the titular Merseyside district) to when he “takes the bus to Bishopsgate” in a daze on following track ‘That Is My Life, That Is Yours’. Stark closer ‘Wednesday Overcast’ commemorates the album’s genesis, with the 28-year-old providing a typical snapshot of this nomadic creative period: “Train to the coast, four hours once a week / In the pub corner, surrounded by creeps / They spoke of the violence and racist police… This place was forgotten from history”.
King Krule fans who relish the prospect of getting lost in Marshall’s dreamy, sombre soundscapes will devour the string section which graces opener ‘Flimsier’, as well as the bizarrely-titled yet heartwarming ‘Tortoise Of Independency’ (“Why do you walk with me so slow? / Said I walk like I’m in a trance… I said, ‘I just want this moment to last and to last’”). Or, perhaps, the more despondent ‘Empty Stomach Space Cadet’, where Marshall laments: “And if I die / Just throw me in the trash / Without you, I’m not there”.
Some of the more mellow offerings do have the tendency to bleed into the next, so ‘Space Heavy’’s whiplash-inducing moments provide some welcome variety. Take the moment when Marshall barks “I’m now your girlfriend!” on the frantic ‘Pink Shell’ before practically cackling, or the similarly spiky energy that courses through the title track in which Marshall repeats “my plastic straw!” as his band ups the grungy ante.
‘Space Heavy’’s highlight, though, comes on the mighty ‘Seagirl’ as Marshall welcomes New York singer-songwriter Raveena to share vocal duties. Marking the first time that a guest artist has been feature-credited on a King Krule track, Marshall and Raveena’s differing styles beautifully interweave and complement one another – Raveena’s metronomic “take, take, take” refrain won’t leave your head for days after your first listen.
This collaborative foray successfully breaks new ground in terms of Marshall’s solo work, further ensuring that ‘Space Heavy’ will assume a lofty standing in King Krule’s already glowing discography. No doubt, then, that Lucas Hedges will be among the many eagerly adding this record to their collection.
Release date: June 9
Record label: XL Records