King Krule, a lonely rider of the current music scene, the only one that is really talking about being in pain (his own words), is the alias of an 18-year old South Londoner, Archie Marshall, accompanied on stage by a bassist, drummer, saxophonist and guitarist. Archie first caught people’s eye last year with the track ‘Out Getting Ribs’, and a self-titled EP that blended jazzy, dissonant chords and the emotional ache of the blues with spoken words of existential discontent.
But after that release and a small set of gigs in the States and at European festivals, Marshall dropped off the map completely until now, playing a set of three shows ending with his first London gig in nearly a year at Electrowerkz on October 18th.The venue was a small, low-key place, built into an arch in Angel, with art school kids hanging out at the stage, wrapped up in sketching in their Moleskines. The support act was another young band called Haraket, who blended a range of musical influences to produce some interesting and experimental sounds that channeled everything from post-dubstep to spanish jazz. Their live mix of physical and pad drums, guitar, synths and a muted trumpet seemed noisy at first, but quickly settled down into some promising and more complex tracks.
As the crowd milled around before the main act, we noticed Marshall himself chilling out in the neighbouring bar, but felt too starstruck to approach with anything meaningful to say. Our frustration didn’t last for too long, though, as he was soon on the stage. The contrast was astounding; he looked frail and delicate, with strikingly red hair and bright green eyes, but when he spoke, his deep voice was slow and assured, bringing to mind a wise, wounded warrior. Words were used sparingly; “Hello, London”, and “Thank you for coming” are the few he uttered aside from song titles. The transformation was complete when they launched into a fierce rendition of ‘Has This Hit’, a track written when Marshall still went by the name Zoo Kid.
It was an astounding opening: ‘Has This Hit’ pulls through a range of emotions the presence of which was felt more strongly and completely live. It set the tone for the rest of the gig, as they wound through a set list covering everything from the EP, early Zoo Kid tracks and the latest single ‘Rock Bottom’.
During the chorus of ‘Baby Blue’, a cry from the crowd went out: “You guys are fucking beautiful!”. A product of the moment, this honest expression seems to perfectly capture our notion of King Krule – expansive sound and voice (he describes his music as a soundscape) which, combined with lyrics that brim over with existential reflection and profound sadness, paints a portrayal of bleak urban existence and brings to the surface something that is both, heartbreaking and beautiful.