Archy Marshall is just a kid. Hell, his musical moniker, King Krule, is derived from a Donkey Kong Country character. And even before that, he went by the name Zoo Kid. Youth is the backstory that’s been propelling the hype behind Marshall’s music so far, so it’s appropriate that 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, the 19-year-old Brit’s debut, embodies all the strengths and trappings of adolescence: equal parts braggadocio, infallibility, and naïveté that often come with a lack of life experience.
6 Feet Beneath the Moon’s middle stretch shows off Marshall’s greatest assets—an aching voice and sonic textures that confidently run the gamut between U.K. dub and more jazz-influenced sounds—as he strings together a handful of affecting tracks that buoy an often-sluggish album. “Baby Blue” is a gentle ballad where Marshall’s idiosyncratic vocal stylings, all harsh syllables and disaffected drawl, are coupled with the airy arrangement of reverb-laden guitars and deteriorating electronic kick drums, conveying longing and loss: “My sandpaper sigh/Engraves a line/Into the rust of your tongue/I could’ve been someone/To you.” There may be maturity and wisdom on the lyric sheet, but it’s also injected with a sense of youthful ignorance, providing urgency, rather than contemplation, to the low-key arrangements; think James Blake with fire in his eyes instead of tears.
“Cementality,” which boasts a lo-fi bedroom aesthetic where sparse keyboards and ethereal atmospherics swirl around Marshall’s gloomy voice, feels weightless, as if all the sonic elements are shapeshifting based on the feelings explored with each line. Such subtlety contrasts well with “A Lizard State,” the album’s most jarring track, which refines an earlier version recorded under the Zoo Kid moniker. It begins with a driving pseudo-surf guitar riff before being crowded by staccato horns and a wonderfully unrelenting bassline. “And now I’m going to fuck things over/’Cause that’s a start/Well if I can’t have her, no one can,” he sings, decorating the rest of the track with a flurry of angry proclamations toward his ex-lover. The track, however, is peppered with misogyny, as Marshall repeatedly wails, “fucking fat bitches.” One could argue that his choice of words accurately portrays his anger, but it comes across as lazy—an easy attention-grabber.
The majority of 6 Feet Beneath the Moon lacks the personality and ingenuity of those three tracks. Too often, Marshall relies on over-singing to suggest pain and heartbreak, but his voice lacks power and range, so such leaps end up feeling like contrived angst. Instead, his snarl is grating, as is the case on tracks such as “Has This Hit?” and “The Krockadile.” Despite the relative simplicity of his aesthetic of electronic drums, electric guitar, and churning synth pads, the arrangements often feel cluttered. On tracks like “Cementality,” Marshall’s voice grounds the music by using a single monotone to suggest stability amid the chaos. When his voice is pushed to its limits, though, it falls flat.
Too often, as on “Foreign” and the laidback “Borderline,” Marshall feels out of his element, chasing a muse, but never quite catching up with it. With its somnambulant filler threatening to kill its more diverse and compelling middle section, where Marshall mixes cold electronic elements with warm live instrumentation and lyricism, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon feels incomplete and rushed, with Marshall cramming as many of his ideas as he can into a single album.