Welcome back inside Archy Marshall’s mind. Four years ago, on ‘Cementality’, he sang, “Brain, leave me be / Can’t you see these eyes are shut”. That song featured on ‘6 Feet Beneath The Moon’, his debut album as King Krule. Now 23, the south London singer with the ghostly pallor and a throat like a cement mixer sounds as insular and conflicted as ever. Conceived after a weed-addled period of writer’s block, ‘The Ooz’ – his swampy, 19-track new record – is a blackened document of paranoia, relationship breakdown and more sleepless nights. His vocals – guttural, electric and still the star of the show – seep from the cracks of songs sketched from jazz, punk, hip-hop, bossa nova and the ambient drift favoured by Dean Blunt and Frank Ocean. Incidentally, Ocean sought out Marshall to work on 2016’s ‘Blonde’, only for the sessions to break down.
But Marshall has always been better off alone, defiant yet vulnerable at the centre of songs like 2013 breakout ‘Out Getting Ribs’. And so it goes on ‘The Ooz’, which he named after the human body’s natural secretions, or “gunk”. A record strewn with familiar depressive lyrical motifs and freaky little touches opens with the jazzy groove of ‘Biscuit Town’, which rhymes “bipolar”, “Motorola” and “Gianfranco Zola”, and breaks down into a stutter of irregular percussion. Creaking bass and alarm bells introduce ‘The Locomotive’, which mutates from a sparse waltz into a dirge that knocks the wind from your chest. “I wish I was people… I plead just take me home,” Marshall wails, blood boiling in his veins.Brassy pub-rock boogie ‘Dum Surfer’ plumbs sludgier depths, as do ‘Vidual’, ‘Emergency Blimp’ – a story of Marshall’s insomnia (“My head hit bed, but my mind’s still alive”) – and ‘Half Man Half Shark’, one of two tracks to feature vocals from Marshall’s father.
The other is ‘Bermondsey Bosom (Right)’, the second of two spoken-word pieces relating to a failed Spanish romance. Positioned midway through each half of the record, they serve as bridges to its dreamier moments (‘Slush Puppy’, ‘Lonely Blue’, ‘Czech One’). Taken whole, it’s a looping, dense, all-encompassing experience where anger and tenderness bang heads throughout. Marshall’s world is grimier than ever.