From “Zoo Kid” to “Edgar the Beatmaker” to “King Krule”, Archie Marshall’s music career has been anything but stagnant. Marshall’s genre-bending music has over the years become a breeding ground for genres such as hip-hop, jazz, dark-wave, and post-punk that funneled out into the idiosyncratic sound of King Krule. With his latest project, “Man Alive!”, Marshall has honed his poetic lyrics, boisterous bass voice, and gritty production for his tightest project to date.
In his latest project he extracts the visceral voice from his 2013 record 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, and the endless purgatory of production (in the best way possible) from his 2017 record The OOZ to create an intimate display of his loneliness. The title, Man Alive!, stands in contrast with the gloom and dread shown throughout the album’s fourteen tracks. On the topic, Marshall isn’t new to the field of solitude, but on this album, he puts the spotlight on his most intimate moments of tuneful anguish.
The album begins with the cascading synths of “Cellular” that rise and fall out of the song with stinging intensity and power. Over them comes Marshall’s doubled voice with a robotic numbing that ushers the listener into his desolate soundscape. The grumbling guitars and sharp percussion assist Marshall’s screaming passages of anguish for his insatiable love of a woman and emotional highs and lows in “Stoned Again”. Then just as the listener has been indoctrinated into the pounding grit of Marshall’s landscape, the album makes a complete 180-degree shift with an interlude that highlights “The Dream” of his misery.
In the second half of the album, silence stings in the most delicate of moments. From the first moments of “Perfecto Miserable”, with a disconcerting voicemail, the spaced-out dreamy reverb of a bass, and the dejected voice of Marshall, the listener knows Marshall is going straight for their heart strings. Sparing not a second, Marshall carves out the center of the albums emotional core saying, “Thought I had everything, but it’s not worth” as he cannot escape the debilitating thoughts of his mind. In “Alone, Omen 3”, Marshall trades the worry for warning, as he comforts the mind of his wife, over skyscraping crescendos of reverbed guitar and hair-raising waves of synth wash.
Over the next songs, Marshall takes a backseat on vocals and hard-hitting instrumentals through a montage of his isolation in his love life and his idealism as all he wants is to “feel free”. The falling of the album displays the end of Marshall’s dreams of true happiness as he embraces the loss of such dream in “(Don’t Let The Dragon) Draag on” and accepts his truth over a lonely saxophone and wavering chords, that culminate in the delicate beauty of “Theme for the Cross”. Now Marshall’s voice is drowned in melancholy, as the album submerges the listener in his boundless, yet intimate anguish like in The OOZ.
The remaining songs are stones skipped on the still lake this album has filled; making a ripple, but never breaking the fragile somber surface. “Underclass” reignites the cold flame of “Perfecto Miserable” in its last 20 seconds, a recall that is all but hopeful. In “Energy Fleets”, Marshall’s outburst finds humor in his futile life, mingling with rising and falling bass chords that sound like they were recorded in a seedy back alley and glimmers of tambourine, sax, and synth that saturate his confused soundscape. Finally numb, Marshall embraces somberness as he begs a woman to complete him, in a final futile attempt at the romantic dream he’s always wished for.