Archy Ivan Marshall, commonly known as King Krule, among countless other names, is a UK-based singer, songwriter, musician, rapper, and record producer. Initially recording music under the stage name Zoo Kid, Marshall later adopted King Krule as his primary moniker in 2011. As of late, the 29-year-old crooning genius has released his 5th studio album, Space Heavy, in June, under XL recordings. XL is an elite British label that represents a diverse body of artists, boasting acts like Arca, Jai Paul, and M.I.A., who are known for their boundary-pushing, genre-defying works. Marshall is no different, and throughout his soulful, angst-ridden discography characterized by gentle guitar melodies countered by abrasive, mumbled vocals, a sound unlike any other is put at the forefront.
Indeed, King Krule’s music isn’t for everyone. Since the 2013 release of 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, his unique style and on-stage demeanor have been the topic of many independent-music fans’ jokes. However, excellent forms of media, whether they be music, film, or visual art, are rarely easily consumable. The opening bassline of “Stoned Again”, the third track from Marshall’s long-awaited 2020 album Man Alive!, is ominous, threatening, and slightly blown out. In his baritone voice, Marshall monotonously raps about anxious thoughts plaguing his mind while he’s high and the soundscape that accompanies his words appropriately recreates the experience. Guttural screams and moans litter the background and a dissonant, brassy saxophone solo ends the 3-minute trip on a foreboding note. The ability to accurately depict unsettling emotions, let alone portray them musically, is uncommon and even more so when performing them live. Marshall, however, is an expert on the matter and is a captivating sight on stage.
It has been nearly 3 years since King Krule has headlined his own tour. While preparing to travel internationally for the reception of Man Alive! in 2020, Marshall’s plans to tour came to a screeching halt. COVID shutdowns across the world were put in place and the tour was postponed. It wasn’t until after the release of Space Heavy did Marshall decide to go back on the road again where, so far, he has visited nearly half of all major US cities, including Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Naturally, for an artist who rarely plays in North America, fans stormed ticket retailers to secure their chance to see someone they have been listening to for nearly a decade. Every show of his has been sold out, including the Dallas date. People of all ages lined the House of Blues’ main standing room and filled its balconies overlooking the stage. Cooper B. Handy, known by his stage name, Lucy, opened for King Krule’s southwestern leg of this tour. Lucy is a multifaceted artist with an entertaining stage presence, as well as a great fashion sense. Handy accessorized his stage outfit with bapestas and a kangol hat— articles of clothing most popularized in the 90s and 80s— indicative of his retrospective, eclectic discography. It was a pleasure to watch Lucy bring such fun-loving energy to the crowd for a brief thirty-minute set before an abrupt mood change brought about by King Krule’s elegiac presence.
As the crowd anticipated in complete darkness, members of Marshall’s band emerged onto the stage, illuminated by saxophonist Ignacio Salvadores’s burning stick of palo santo. Its earthy, smoky smell filled my lungs, and in that moment, it felt like I was part of a church procession, being blessed by a priest amongst a group of faithful worshippers. Most artists just high-five each other as a pre-show ritual, King Krule’s band actually has a full-blown ritual, incense and all. The air felt still and mournful as Marshall started off his performance with “Perfecto Miserable,” a song that appropriately fit the energy of the room. Spiritual or not, the experience of witnessing King Krule perform with his band was undoubtedly captivating and emotionally raw. James Wilson, George Bass, Jack Towell, Ignacio Savadores, and Jamie Isaac, the instrumentalists who comprise the rest of King Krule, soulfully played alongside Marshall. Their warm sound balanced Marshall’s cool on-stage demeanor and all 2 hours of their set were simply perfect.