Archy Marshall’s 2013 debut under the King Krule moniker showed the incredible force within the scrawny, rough looking teenager with an unforgettable voice. It wasn’t only the aura 6 Feet Beneath the Moon gave off, an air of urban decay mixed with a soft, extremely painful soul, but also the very fine mixture of genres encompassing hip-hop, jazz, punk and some electronic flavors and his charming guitar playing capable of roughening the loungiest jazz chords into brute anger and hostility. It had its minor debut drawbacks, some weaker tracks here, some monotonous sections there, but all in all it showed the very special and unique musical niche Marshall was carving for himself, a dark and sad place with a lot of anger and a lot of ache, but with the perfect means to disinfect himself of them.
Last week saw the surprise release of A New Place 2 Drown, a multimedia collaboration between the two Marshall brothers, Archy and Jack, comprising a documentary film, book and the album released under Archy’s name. The two red-haired brothers have been frequent collaborators, Jack working on the visual side of things, while Archy handled the music, like in their 2014 exhibition Inner City Ooz at London’s Display Gallery. The series of abstract visuals combined with poetry and soundscapes focused on their shared experiences growing up in south London, and A New Place 2 Drown does exactly the same thing only in a more fixed format.
As opposed to 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, A New Place 2 Drown has a clearer image of what genre it wants to work with, being generally beat oriented hip-hop tracks, again with a few electronic tinges. The songs are on the short side, many of them clocking in before the 3 minute mark, but they still manage to be pretty densely packed. The tracks don’t have much development or a very complex structure, most of them having a longish instrumental intro to which a vocal part is added in the second part, but this works great with what the brothers Marshall had in mind. The various episodes, experiences and feelings are perfectly accompanied by these short, very tightly knit musical passages, each hinting at the different setting within the same large scenery. Some of them have a very static, XXYYXX electronic feel about them (Any God of Yours, Dull Boys) while others have an old school sample collection old school hip hop feel (Eye’s Drift, Ammi Ammi). Archy’s sweet longing guitar strums have been almost completely replaced by pretty intricate synth sounds and general electronic experimentation, but most tracks still show his love for complex and magical jazz harmonies. Only downside is the fact that the pieces seem pretty focused on Archy’s lyrics, yet they are mixed a little too far back throughout most of the songs, making them either hard to discern or just difficult to focus on. Their aim is to describe the different settings of where the brothers grew up and the lyrics somehow demand your attention while never being able to completely capture it due to the vocal production. Keeping in mind that they worked across multiple formats to sort of show a multifaceted picture, I somehow still wish the album to have featured Archy’s texts more prominently.
Lyrically, the album keeps close to the terrain Archy had threaded on his debut, a world of heartbreak, misery and decaying urban scenery. A New Place 2 Drown turns however from the deeply confessional, introspective perspective of 6 Feet… focusing more on a collection of scenes from the streets of south London as experienced by the two brothers in their adolescence. Shady characters appear hear and there interrupted by lyrical passages and always described from within their circle, the narrator having a very strong and clear relationship to the places and people he describes. Tone remains confessional throughout, but rather than digging deep and excruciatingly shouting his despair, Archy’s poetry tries to describe his brother and himself through their teenage hangouts, different night time wanderings and general youngster tomfoolery. It seems like the album mixes favorite TV shows, junk food, sentimentality, teenage tribulations and constant creative spark into a very relatable emotional landscape. The places may be foreign, south London may not be the place where you grew up, but after listening to A New Place 2 Drown it might become just that.