The subtlety and power of King Krule

“Imagine a king crawling through the city on his hands and knees. It’s aristocracy at the very bottom,” says King Krule on his romantic lens rejection of the establishment.

The blood-freezing voice and neo-jazz introspections of Archy Marshall has curdled the hearts of crowds worldwide. A troll under the bridge of society, Archy donned the moniker of King Krule to forensically examine his soul and literally submerge himself in depression and sound.

While King Krule is his most well-known alias, Marshall has, no doubt, countless others including Edgar the Beatmaker and Zoo Kid. Despite the wardrobe of masks, King Krule frequently returns as the deepest well, with the murkiest waters, ever-shifting and difficult to distinguish.

Now 25, the pale-faced Southwark native is approaching the release of his third studio album Man Alive!. Before its release on the 27th Feb, we reflect on the sublime power and subtlety of King Krule. King Krule

Step inside the miasmic mind of King Krule. Battling oppression, depression, and the opulence of the upper class, Archy Marshall has crafted a compelling world of blue.

The first time you listen to King Krule you will be gripped by his rich, angry baritone. Moreso upon seeing the gaunt, hollow-cheeked figure behind the voice. The second time around you will be swayed like seaweed by the tidal force of his torn love songs and the emotive, tragedy of his lyrics.

The sandpaper grit of his emotion seesaws with his marble-mouthed yowl to create something wholly unique. “A fucking masterpiece of craft and art” is how Archy Marshall describes his debut double-LP, Six Feet Beneath The Moon, released on his 19th birthday back in 2013, and he’s not wrong.

Initially, it can feel like bony fingers and needles, but upon further acquaintance, Archy paints a Van Gogh-esque portrait of noir London streets, cobwebbed sheets, and tarmacked elegance. The cataclysmic croon of Baby Blue plays out like a deranged Marshall staunching his love interest, sounding like Frank Sinatra with a gaping head wound and an acerbic wit.

Archy Marshall grew up commuting between his mum’s house in East Dulwich and his dad’s flat in Peckham. “My dad was fucking strict. He wouldn’t let me swear. But my mum would let me do anything. Dad was more brown rice,” he recalls of a childhood that has left him resilient yet scarred.

“I went through a lot of fucking weird shit,” when he was young, most of which his dad has no knowledge of. At the age of 13, after refusing to attend school, Marshall was given a home tutor. After that failed he was sent to two education centres for permanently excluded kids, which he recalls as being “thrown into the lion’s den.”

During this period he was being tested and analysed f0r various types of mental illness at London’s Maudsley Hospital. “That really took its toll on me. It was then I decided to not give a shit about the establishment because a lot of the time, the doctors and the psychiatrists and the counsellors and my social workers were plain wrong. Basically, I hated everyone.”

His parents were threatened with prison by social services if they couldn’t get him to go to school, but he still refused. The cavalry was called in and his dad would physically take him from the house and deliver him to school.

Eventually, like it often does, music provided an escape. The Wizard of Ooz recalls lying awake at night during intense bouts of insomnia listening to the Pixies and The Libertines. “That was when I began to think about creating soundscapes,” he explains.

This deeply troubling childhood left Archy Marshall disillusioned but he takes it all with a grain of salt saying, “I know my story sounds terrible, but I wouldn’t change anything in my life, because it all helped to formulate what I feel now is a very strong mind.”

This all led to his translucent 2017 follow up The Ooz, a dense odyssey through Marshall’s subconscious and “the gunk”. Between the four years since 6 Feet Beneath The Moon Marshall had become the underground poster boy of the Square Mile. A haunted outsider who tapped into the urban dystopia of London’s aspirational deluge.

He had also dropped a few post-punk jams under his Edgar the Beatmaker alias (including one for Earl Sweatshirt), and 2015’s A New Place 2 Drown, a hip-hop jazz album alongside a book of art and poetry, made in collaboration with his brother.

Creatively exhausted, The Ooz was dreamed up as a diaristic blues opus, drenched in jazz and grunge. A conceptual exploration of his family heritage, an expunging of the muck that coagulates on the top of a pond, and an attempt to seduce a young woman visiting him from Barcelona.

“That particular girl really got me to write this record. I wanted to impress her. Every day, it was like: read this, look at this, come with me here.” By the time his Spanish muse flew home with no plans of a return flight, Marshall had accrued enough ‘ooz’ to splatter the canvas.

In early 2016, he invited his Spanish lover to live with him and it quickly became serious. On March 14th, 2019, Archie Marshall and his photographer wife Charlotte Patmore welcomed their first child into the world. Perhaps this is why he dreams of leaving London for the desert, specifically “Dungeness – the only desert in Europe” to “start something fresh.” 

King Krule has just dropped the first single from his new album Man Alive! due out Feb 21. (Don’t Let The Dragon) Draag On feels even more illusory and hazed than previous releases playing with loops and wonky beats. It’s as if Krule listened to The Ooz and said ‘what is this pop trash’ hinting at an album far more experimental than previous efforts. From the age of 14, Marshall was trying to sell his debut CD at school for a fiver. He is now 25 with an ash stained empire at his feet, being crowned as his generations best poet.

As fans continue to fall evermore for the mesmerising riddle and blue crushed velvet of this nocturnal crooner, King Krule will no doubt translate his exorcisms of a loner’s mind and shuffle on down those London streets, staring at his laces and lost in the beat.