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Friday, September 6, 2013

King Krule: 6 Feet Beneath the Moon (Release Date: 8-24-2013)

        If you thought I was all done lavishing praise on 19-year-old musical prodigies for a few weeks, guess again! Archy Marshall, previously known as Zoo Kid before hopping on over to new moniker King Krule, has recorded ahead-of-his-age tracks for years, but a full LP has evaded him. Until now, that is. 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, released on a none-too-common Saturday unveiling (in order to celebrate Marshall's last teenage birthday), finally gives us a whole track list from a young man fully accustomed to under-sharing. We know Marshall's got lightning in him, but does he already have a full-on storm? The answer, as anyone with their head screwed on straight would have likely predicted, is a little bit of both.

        King Krule's music is tough to describe, a whirring mix of reverb-heavy guitars, jazzy interludes, sneaky hip-hop influence, and one of the most peculiar yowls this side of Tom Waits. 6 Feet affords him entire universes in which to spread his limbs out and let his freak flag fly, the results proving just as exhilarating as they are chaotic. Through the disc's enormous 14-track, 52 minute runtime (overkill by almost any definition of the word), we make pit stops in guitar pop (Easy Easy), woozy balladry (Baby Blue), bratty punk (A Lizard State), minimalism (Cementality), and whatever the heck Neptune Estate is. It's a wildly uneven listen, but the lows are infrequent, and the highs scrape the sky.

        In truth, drawing the line between good KK tracks and lesser ones is fairly simple; Marshall is at his best when he's not trying to out-smart himself. I'm still searching for what makes both Boarder Lines and Ceiling so immediate, each requiring only minimal instrumentation to positively engulf ears in their groove. A Lizard State, on the other hand, employs both pace and profanity never before witnessed in Marshall's music, and it comes off more like a failed experiment than a final album cut. Same goes for the aforementioned Cementality, which simply doesn't have enough going on to fully engage. It's an even bigger bummer when one considers the omission of recent non-LP cuts like Rock Bottom and Bleak Bake, tracks hugely superior to the lesser material on hand here.

        The one exception to this rule is Neptune Estate, a singularly knotty track that has no use for traditional songwriting rhetoric. More of a place than a pure song, the tune hinges on a rickety, low-key piano loop, inviting horns, guitars, found sounds, bogged-down percussion, and defeated laments to slowly seep into the mix. It's a break-up song that actually captures those confused emotions, feelings of loss, pride, frustration, and disconnect wafting off of the track's deceptively warm sounds. It's probably the album's finest track, though Baby Blue's lovelorn waltz, the sassy second half of Has This Hit?, and lead single Easy Easy are all wholly worthy of mention.

        And then there's that late-album dose of deja vu, when the kid unspools his spruced-up rendition of Out Getting Ribs, Marshall's single that first turned heads way back in April of 2010. The changes are minimal; Krule's broken croon is brought further to the forefront, and those woozy, distant guitar strums are a bit more sinewy and palpable. Somehow, though, these deviations cast the track in a far different light than the one I fell in love with a couple years ago, a contrast that speaks to the album at large. Having concocted a sound all his own at such an absurdly young age, Archy Marshall is now wrestling with how to make his next maturational leap, which is quite the problem to have on your debut LP. I'll take the older version for my money, but the new-fangled rendition is an understandable effort from an up-and-comer dedicated to tinkering. 6 Feet Beneath the Moon might not be the great LP that one might hope for from King Krule, but I'd bet the house that he's got it in him somewhere. Stay tuned; Archy Marshall's run is just beginning.

Grade: B+

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