King Krule Grew Up

Made with his brother Jack, Archy Marshall’s A New Place 2 Drown is a raw, intimate tale of becoming an adult.

Back in the summer of 2013, I interviewed an 18-year-old Archy Marshall at his childhood home in East Dulwich, south London, for Dazed. It was a hot, sticky day. Archy, his brother Jack, and a mate were gathered in the garden, smoking weed while the boys’ mother showed me the DIY fashion studio in the back of the house, before cutting her sons’ hair in the garden. There was laughter as Archy and his mate attempted to display a huge print of Jack’s artwork for 6 Feet Beneath The Moon—Archy’s debut album as King Krule—by dangling it from the first floor window because it was so massive. Everyone was chuckling, smiling, and drinking tea.

Two years on, that same familial warmth infuses this week’s new collaborative project from the Marshall brothers, A New Place 2 Drown, which comprises an album, a 208 page photo/poetry/art book, and a short film. For the release, Archy has temporarily put a cap on his ever-shifting creative identity (as well as King Krule, his aliases include Zoo Kid, Dik Ooz, DJ JD Sports, and Edgar The Beatmaker), instead choosing to symbolically put it out under his birth name. That it’s his most personal project to date should come as no surprise. A New Place 2 Drown tells the story of summer 2014, evoking the kind of lazy, stoned days I dropped in 12 months previously. Even though it only represents a short burst of months, it's clear from its effortlessness that it comes from two people who have been creating together their whole lives.

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Though the record itself is relatively short, clocking in at just 37 minutes, the accompanying book is a hefty work: a hazy, seemingly endless summer rendered via photos of the brothers in their mates smoking in south London parks, lazing about in bedrooms, and hanging out in beer gardens. Beautiful girls smile in dappled sunlight, and warmly out-of-focus snapshots are scrawled with poems that offer insight into the complex cusp of manhood as Archy spends his last summer as a teenager (“my face wears war”, he writes in dashed-off freehand, ominously adding “beneath my skin I descend, see you on the other side my friend”). There’s humor in the photos as well: a cat decimates a miniature village like a furry Godzilla, Archy attempts to wash the dog in a bath with his mom, and doner kebabs glisten under artificial light. It’s a vivid and true reflection of Archy and his family’s easy-feeling summers—the Marshall home has an open door policy, as I saw in 2013 when Archy’s mates dropped by during our interview to eat pizza and pet the dog.

Meanwhile, the record is the sound of a teenager becoming a man. Archy airs his lingering grievances, bridging the gap between adulthood and adolescence with a ragged kind of uncertainty. Fuck, my mental health/went down the drain as well he hums on “Swell,” wrapping himself around the narrative of a relationship gone sour. “Arise Dear Brother” brings with it more of the same crushing reality: the song moves from brittle reflections on cheating (Even though you fucked him I don’t give a shit) to the importance of family (But wait, there’s some trouble with my mother/You know I would rather be with you, lover). Archy’s no stranger to opening a window to his inner flux and turmoil, as outlined in the suicidal feelings aired in King Krule’s “Cementality” from 2013’s 6 Feet Beneath The Moon. However, this time around he’s letting us into his labored love life—and there’s a newfound glossiness in his sound that's paired with the new world of intimacy in his lyrics.

There’s romance as well as heartache to be found on the record. “Ammi Ammi”—which features a vocal refrain from ambient soul singer and Archy’s former Brit School classmate Jamie Isaac—testifies that the music of seduction never goes out of style. Her love’s unlimited/she lays there playing Barry White, he sings, as if he’s lounging on leopard print satin sheets and supping cognac while his lover slips into something a little more comfortable.

Elsewhere, there are whispered reminders of Archy’s love of experimental jazz—a genre he often credits as integral to his own musical development—with the free-form style acting as a break from the pressures of living in one of the most hectic cities in the world. It’s there in the sci-fi soul of the warped “New Builds,” the fluttering urban atmospherics of “Sex With Nobody,” and the spiraling synth patterns of “Dull Boys.” Echoes of the city are embedded in every song, and despite his relationship woes, the book and its accompanying music make for a nuanced love letter to the Marshalls’ native south London. The shots of double decker buses, soccer games played in streets, the blue flash of police cars, and lingering images of the city skyline that make up the short film only add to that sense of romance.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the whole project comes in the short film, in an interview with the Marshalls’ mother—a stylist and screenprinter who used to work in Spike Lee’s New York store and designed the costumes for PM Dawn’s “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss” video. “They grew up together with a very strong love and a strong bond,” she explains, after revealing she used to run art clubs from their childhood home. A unique work, made by two unique individuals, A New Place 2 Drown is not only notable for its multimedia presentation, but all the more special because it was made by siblings, their close bond reflected in the way the images and the music mesh together so perfectly. The project is as intimate yet effortless as an endless summer afternoon kicking it in the back garden, when adulthood looms on the horizon—but for now, there's just breeze, brews, and brotherly love.

A New Place 2 Drown is out now.
December 11, 2015
King Krule Grew Up