By Serena Johnson | The Duquesne Duke
In his second studio album entitled “A New Place 2 Drown,” Englishman Archy Marshall (formerly known as King Krule) is shedding his Morrissey mini-me cocoon to spread his wings as a wunderkind reborn.
While dedicated fans of the gaunt, ginger-locked 20-something still get a taste of his familiar and utterly unique inflection, they may be disappointed to find that Marshall’s traded in his Fender Telecaster for a more technologically enhanced vibe.
With a slew of up-and-coming artists trying to cash in on the electronic offspring of acid jazz, it comes as little to no surprise that the gawky south London native would jump on the trip-hop bandwagon.
But despite indulging in the overdone fad, if there’s anything to be said about the album, it’s this: “Trite” has never sounded so good.
A succinct, lyricless introduction track (“Any God of Yours”) sets the stage for Marshall’s brand new demeanor. Gradually, seamlessly, the instrumental fades into “Swell,” a warped jumble of inaudible prose; it’s as if he put his profundity into a whirring blender, flipped a switch and let it swirl. Unfortunately, this track is severely tainted by constant namedrops of the album’s title, which despite its lyrical intention, seems more sophomoric than anything else considering Marshall’s a seasoned artist and not an eighth grader promoting his very first mixtape.
However, the following track, “Arise Dear Brother,” seems to be his way of leaning into his audience’s hypercritical ears and confidently whispering, “Trust me.” Definitely a highlight of the entire album, it generously supplements the work’s essence of chillstep elevator music in some sort of avant-garde alternate dimension. Not to mention this is when the tracklist initially retreats to Marshall’s iconic King Krule modulation that enchanted listeners only a few years prior.
“Ammi Ammi” features Jamie Isaac, fellow artist and old friend of Marshall’s from their performing arts alma mater. Despite the song’s less-than-intriguing beat, his near-soprano lilt eloquently complements his ex-classmate’s deep bass.
Speaking of the album’s more lackluster end of the spectrum, while Marshall’s production expertise is indisputable, certain tracks (“Eye’s Drift,” “New Builds” and “Buffed Sky”) simply feel unintentionally drab and forgettable. They lack a certain charismatic aura that the artist once brought to the table as King Krule as well as under his preceding moniker, Zoo Kid – even without the assistance of his gritty baritone.
Still, the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to this record. “Buffed Sky,” is saved by its sister-song “Sex With Nobody,” featuring English sitcom laugh tracks utilized in tiny samples to accompany the so-high-it’s-horizontal spirit of Marshall’s trippy melodies.
“The Sea Liner MK 1” does the same for “Eye’s Drift,” by combatting the mediocre snorefest with an intense synth that provides a good reason for “darkwave” being one of the many labels appropriately tacked onto the musician’s difficult-to-pinpoint soundscapes.
“Empty Vessels” sounds like a sophisticated version of Yung Lean’s fathomless, European cyphers and ironically enough, “Dull Boys” dishes out some unexpected crescendos amidst peculiar, though not necessarily bad, nasally lyrics.
But the album’s final track, “Thames Water,” which at the risk of creating a god-awful pun, blows its predecessors out of the water. It is not only the longest, but also the most diverse of all 12 tunes. It somehow manages to sprinkle in several tidbits from different elements of this generation’s vast musical apparatus, all within a seven minute run. It’s a melancholic ballad, (“Girl this place is evil…”) and a jazz-fusion fantasy all wrapped up into one sweet deal – and that’s just the first half. The song makes a daring beat-switch midway to a high fashion house melody that seems so Lone influenced, you’re almost anxiously awaiting Azealia Banks herself to jump in with a verse. Needless to say, it’s the perfect ending to a polished production.
The album may experience its highs and lows, as most typically do, but overall, “A New Place 2 Drown” is hardly a bipolar rollercoaster of good-and-oh god. While some tracks may fall flat, they all work together accordingly to contribute to a very well done record. It’s relatively safe to say that Marshall should look forward to an iridescent future within the music industry.
“A New Place 2 Drown” can currently be streamed on Spotify, as well as purchased on iTunes, along with an accompanying book of the same name and a short film developed by London based filmmaker, Will Robson-Scott.