RUDI RANCE, Era’s next Editor-in-Chief, attends King Krule’s intimate set at London’s acclaimed 100 Club.
Oscillating between cry and croon, his voice cuts through the crowd before him. Underneath a warm June sky, overcast and sticky, the woozy grit of the guitar bonds with the sweaty excitement it elicits. The sound of saxophone snakes through the smoke. The ceiling of The 100 Club is damp and beneath it stands a crowd, amorphous and united in purpose, all waiting in anticipation to see the man now taking the stage: Archy Marshall, the King Krule. When he’s not singing, he barely mutters a word. A heavy, neo-estuary intonation cloaks the voice, which shifts on a dime from a barely intelligible mutter to a cutting roar. Over the looping of his now iconoclast use of the Major 7th, it begins as a whisper… ‘You’re my everything’… and ends as a plea… ‘I guess I’ll have to go’.
Two days after the release of his fourth studio album Space Heavy, Marshall has ascended to the celebrity-laden walls of London’s beloved 100 Club for an inaugural and surprisingly intimate concert. Ten years since the release of his debut record 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, Marshall, now nearly thirty, has safely established his position in the halls of British music as a generational talent. He looks at ease amidst the famous faces that decorate the walls behind him, his influence stretches far and wide, across genre and scene. Like a 2000’s Alex Turner left in a sonic slow-cooker, Marshalls’ lyricism can be found somewhere in-between fleeting moments of cryptic romance and brutalist kitchen-sink poetry. The set, whilst concise, acts as a whistle-stop tour through his discography, opening with some softer numbers from Man Alive! before swiftly diving into the darkness and sludge of The OOZ and the new Space Heavy.
Watching the band live, I am struck by the coordination and tightness of the group. Listening to King Krule you may be forgiven for assuming Marshall has a tendency towards an improvisational mode of composition. The live act shatters such an illusion, the band performs, rather, a simmering, red wine-stained brand of jazz-rock that is controlled, directed and powerful. The bass leaves drinks simmering at the side of the bar, the floor pounds and the crowd sways in tune with Marshall’s intoxicating rhythms. The presence of Ignacio Salvadores on saxophone, vocals and pedals, brings a newfound intensity to certain tracks previously sparse and minimalistic. The immense ‘Dum Surfer’ in its sluggish, shuddering monstrosity was a personal highlight. Marshall spits out lyrics with a brutish swagger and Salvadores screams through the sax. The song explodes into a final shimmering climax that leaves you breathless.
Other songs suffer from a less successful transformation. At times, the band tends to drown out the beauty found in the quiet of Marshall’s songwriting. The gentleness in the new singles ‘Seaforth’ and ‘If Only it Was Warmth’ are replaced in favour of slow-building crescendos, which whilst easy on the ears, surrender the beauty of the music to rage and fervour. At times, Marshall is seemingly lost in said rage. When not singing he turns from the audience, barely interacting. Yet when the music is playing, born from him is a fiery, passionate performance that turns lullaby into chant, fury into dance and sleaze into poetry.
A short while after the end of the set, King Krule returns to the stage. The unmistakable buzz of an E-string signals the beginning of ‘Easy Easy’. Ten years on, the song has transformed. The chorus, now anthemic, is backed up by the smashing of drums and the choir of the crowd. It is a performance indicative of Marshall’s progression from, boy to man, prince to king. Four albums in, it is clear Marshall and King Krule aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Space Heavy is available for listening on all streaming platforms. Catch King Krule live in London at Eventim Apollo Hammersmith on October 9th and 10th.