King Krule/The Weeknd
Nov 3, 2013
6 FEET BENEATH THE MOON, King Krule (XL Recordings)
King Krule is the current performing name of Archy Marshall, a gangly red-headed teenager from East Dulwich who has been making his own laptop recordings since before his voice broke, and who began to be noticed when he started posting material on Bandcamp under the banner of Zoo Kid, about three years ago.
On 6 Feet Beneath The Moon, his debut album, you will find a raw musicality combined with an identity that is well-formed and region-specific. That identity is established in the opening bars as Marshall sings about “bobbys on their beats” in an accent that would not be out of place in EastEnders.
Marshall is hardly unique in choosing to emphasise his regional voice. Billy Bragg and Joe Strummer are just two who have done the same thing in the past, and listening to King Krule I’m reminded of both. But unlike Bragg or Strummer, who came out of punk, and the rock and folk music that preceded it, Marshall is a child of hip-hop. His handmade backings rely as much on his sampling skills as they do on his guitar, while his beats suggest a drunken version of dubstep. Even at his most traditionally tuneful, his rhyming falls naturally into the rhythms of a rapper.
But if 6 Feet Beneath The Moon is, on one level, a kind of hip-hop album, Marshall has equally been inspired by music from a time before hip-hop existed. He knows his punk; the Joe Strummer resemblance in his singing is no more coincidental than the Sid Vicious sneer he flashes in the video for ‘Out Getting Ribs’. (Watch it here.) And the album’s whole eclectic collage makes me think of The Clash’s Sandinista.
Most surprising is the undercurrent of jazz. It’s audible not just in his chords, but also in the voice he adopts for certain songs. It’s a crude croon – you could call it punk lounge style – and is most effective on the disarmingly well-crafted ‘Baby Blue’. With its startlingly poetic opening stanza (“My sandpaper sigh engraves a line, into the rust of your tongue”), the song is the most obvious example of his precocious talent, but you will find plenty more scattered throughout this formative but youthfully persuasive debut.
KISS LAND, The Weekend (XO)
The music of The Weeknd – performing name of black Canadian Abel Tesafaye – has the outward trappings of classic romantic R&B. His voice is light and androgynous-sounding, moving adroitly in and around falsetto like Bad-era Michael Jackson. The musical furnishings are synthetic and lush, recalling the boudoir soul of late period Marvin Gaye. But on his major label debut, there is about as much romance as there are real violins. The encounters depicted are the loveless transactions between an itinerant musician and a score of seemingly interchangeable partners; like him, they are professionals. And in spite of the silky soundscapes, this is ultimately not an album about seduction but about isolation and loneliness, which will leave you feeling as hollow as the singer.