the solace of king krule amid a pandemic

"The world of King Krule will now be a part of me until the end of time."


Welcome to the world of King Krule, a place of mystical sensations with a transcendental aptitude. A planet soundtracked by silky jazz ground together with a punk regime, enhanced with dashes of gaze-y guitar tones. Established under the fresh alias of ‘King Krule’ in 2011, South London juvenile Archy Marshall is nothing short of a contemporary musical genius. A homage to Elvis Presley’s film ‘King Creole’, the musician's raspy bark is nothing short of deserving for a paramount reception. With three well-acclaimed full-length albums under his belt, Marshall remains a humble and innovative artist; his niche sound growing progressively more sentimental to a generation fuelled by existential dread.

When the clocks struck midnight on January 1st, 2020, I was surrounded by my closest friends and family. We eagerly anticipated a detrimental year of self-growth and prosperous opportunities, I - for one - would be finishing secondary school, sitting through crucial exams, moving out of my hometown, and starting college in a new place entirely. For once in my life I did not fear what was to come; my future felt secure and almost glazed with a sweet drizzle of optimism and luck. Looking back now, I am only reminded of how sour the following 8 months really were. In the background of my New Year’s celebrations, COVID-19 had begun to slip the tongues of a handful of newsreaders on night-time television. Its remorse ached to be heard and loomed as an imminent threat – a singular domino begging to be knocked down. It longed to fulfill its purpose of destroying everything within its grasp. Yet the British nation proceeded to act as if they had a million other more important things to worry about. Other countries had already begun to set out in avoiding a grave number of fatalities whilst the UK reclined in its gloating commode - naively waiting until the very last minute to prepare for safeguarding.

After becoming so engulfed by social isolation, any fresh sound resurfaced me with a sense of idealism, but Marshall’s sound was different. It had become gospel at this point.

Three months later, the mindset of neglecting preparation had dichotomised into a crisis level of panic. The impending lockdown triggered the British nation to resort back to their selfish tendencies; queuing outside of supermarkets at sunrise just to drain the shelves of toilet rolls, hand sanitiser, and tinned/dried food within half an hour of opening. A matter of days later, sitting on my once comfy living room sofa, Boris Johnson’s tinny pre-recorded voice rang alarm bells in my ears: “from this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction. You must stay at home”. The 18 words declared a national lockdown and staring right at me, now sat a phantom curated of dread, anxieties, and fear. Slowly but surely, the essence of average daily life had been drying out, but after that broadcast, the pedestal of necessities had been swiftly kicked from under my feet. The exams I had been endlessly working towards had been cancelled, I would have no academic focus for six months, my place of work closed down, and I knew that a bout of mental decay would be heading in my direction.


I soon became hyper-aware that I would never have so much spare time in all my life again, so I felt inclined to work harder than ever before. I had to be whirring over something all hours of the day, otherwise, the 24 hours would have been a waste. A superficial motivation was sparked. A motivation that was bound not to last; a motivation that deep down I knew would not last; a motivation that quite frankly did not last. Three weeks down the line I was left riding a mental health plateau with no looming satisfaction from the work I was spending my days trying to achieve. Guilt and melancholia became the only guests I met with over the quarantine period. We dined together over apathetic and lethargic bowls of pasta. I ardently longed to counteract them with a median of art that I hadn’t found yet.


Over in the side-lines, King Krule stood and stared. Marshall’s work had always been right under my nose due to a smattering of my friends enjoying his work. Talks of his craft would fill my phone in bouts of addictiveness before disappearing again after a few weeks, only for the cycle to restart again during later months. When the leading singles for Man Alive began to appear in my Spotify Daily Mix, I instantly understood what the commotion was all about. Marshall’s vocals were hypnotic and refreshing, his guitar riffs were enticing, his presence equally as mysterious. Longing to fill the reclusive void of entertainment during this harrowing time, I plunged straight into the deep end, submerging myself in his work. The vulnerability of my mind latched onto the more melancholia tracks and epiphanised into an instant sentimentality and solace. The discography supplied me with a temporary validation through the otherwise monochrome monotony of lockdown and provided me with something to entertain my thoughts with.


After becoming so engulfed by social isolation, any fresh sound resurfaced me with a sense of idealism, but Marshall’s sound was different. It had become gospel at this point. It provoked a fresh artistic value through the sheer romanticism that lurked in the undertones of his instrumentation. I would take these values in the lighter moments of lockdown, with me. During nights in which I would spend hours on Discord chatting to my friends about tiny aspects of our day, I would bubble with admiration and lust to see them again. At this trigger, the gentle riff of “Out Getting Ribs” would get caught in my head, and before realising, I would be actively discussing with them how elated the track made me feel. How it reminded me of better times when we were all together in a credulous nature and how I longed for those moments again. When the moment finally came, euphoria linked arms with every atom of my being.


What I came to adore most about King Krule’s work was how his lyrics were crafted with such immense delicacy and detail. They were seamlessly tailored to cut close to the bone for the listenership whilst still shedding light on their creator’s personal life, without leaving the usual superficial and tacky residue. Marshall notes in Flaunt magazine that he "used to read lots of poetry" and would "sit there for ages trying to decipher the meaning, or work out the narration behind it al" before applying this to his own work. The title track of his second album The OOZ demonstrates this concisely; it writes on anxieties and loneliness that is only immensely amplified to feel celestial once paired with the slow-burning melody. “We OOZ two souls pastel blues, heightened touch from losing sight” his vocals rasp, articulating against the unignorable melancholia which left me in an outer body realm for a hesitant four minutes and 36 seconds.


During this confounding time, I had also moved out of the town that I had lived in since birth. Now, there was an extra level of isolation crying to be acknowledged. Not only had I not seen my friends in three months at this point, but I had to leave them without saying goodbye. It no longer felt like I was infatuated within the group – it was as if I had removed myself from their existence and once lockdown was over, I would just be a thing of the past to them. The new home that I had once romanticised and longed to be a place of fresh beginnings and healthy living, was left feeling cold and unrewarding. It served as the ultimate blow to the jaw after clutching at every optimistic nerve I had left in my body. My admiration for and reliance on The OOZ only consumed me further now. The running astral theme throughout the LP became metaphorical, it resembled how deject and separated I felt from the world around me.


But the paramount that The Ooz became did not always resemble the lowest moments of lockdown for me. Within the deep solace, I developed a deep admiration for all aspects of the LP. I found an appreciation for the direst aspects including the ordering of the track-listing. “La Lune” is the closer of the astral craft. A lighter track, relieving the heavyweights the previous tracks had placed upon your shoulders. As Marshall harmonises “it won’t be long ‘til you’re inside, my heart. To be with you, such a view” over dreamy guitar chords and the gentle patter of rain, I was reminded of the optimism I had at the beginning of the year. Momentarily, the rose-tinted glasses masked my vision, and comfort overcame my body. As an album closer, I think it draws in the overall message of the importance of searching for this optimism in even the darkest, loneliest of times.


I was lucky to have found deep solace in the album when I did. In years to come, I will play the album back and be reminded of the niche intelligible feelings I felt as a result of the quarantine period. I sit and wonder where King Krule will lead me next. Undeniably, the memories I have of my primary interactions with his work are bitter to reminisce upon, but they resemble growth and prosperity through an unimaginably strange time that I lived through. If the time ever comes and my children take note of COVID-19 and question me about what it was like, all I will hold is a fuzz of the six-month quarantine with this album as its soundtrack. It may appear bleak, but through the moments of romantisation, walking through the park as the sunrise and growing a deep appreciation for the tiny details of life have provided me with the biggest learning curve that I could imagine.

The world of King Krule will now be a part of me until the end of time.

Ellie Smith is a fifteen-year-old student based in the midlands of England. Ellie has a deep admiration for gigs, galleries and generous helpings of cosy nights. As a writer for Haloscope, she aims to embody her passions and pass the love on to someone else. Whether it's a zestful new album review or an inquisitive interview, she hopes that you will come to love it just as much as her. Feel free to keep up with her on her Instagram: @how2leavetown!

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