London songwriter Archy Marshall has slipped on a few disguises over the last few years, whether as lo-fi balladeer Zoo Kid or his slightly refined follow-up as King Krule. The singer-songwriter has once again flipped his approach with his latest project, shedding pseudonyms entirely to go by his given name. Arriving with the title New Place 2 Drown, his latest album once again reinvents his song palette, this time delving deeper into a mix of electronic beats and downer lyricism.
The 11-song set is part of a much larger entity, though. Taking a multi-disciplinary approach, the record is tied to a 208 page book of photos and art prepped by Marshall and visual artist brother Jack, not to mention a documentary exploring the relationship between the pair of ginger-haired creatives.
As for the book, previews that have gone online portray caricatures of heavy-lidded brothers-in-arms, bond-exploring poetry, and near-Basquiat blurs of crudely-drawn, crown-covered characters flanked by explosive exclamations like “My Face Wears War.” New Place 2 Drown, which Archy describes as the “soundtrack” to the siblings multi-media offerings, is a bit more muted in its approach, but no less fascinating.
Along with ditching the King Krule moniker, Marshall’s latest set of songs veer off from the minimalist, Billy Bragg-leaning strums heard through a good chunk of 2013’s 6 Feet Beneath the Moon. “Any God of Yours” is a quick instrumental piece that pitch-warps guitar tones into a nauseous wobble of sound, but “Swell” quickly locks the album into a lusty late night groove.
Above champagne room swirls of keys and strings, Marshall gets a bit dark, offering in the de facto title track that he’s found a new place to drown his “sorrows and everything else.” He follows this up with syrup-addled solemnity: “Fuck my mental health/went down the drain as well.”
A doomed-loved narrative seems to haunt the collection, with wildly ping-ponging percussion and slow-mo jazz chords of “Arise Dear Brother” congealing nicely beneath Marshall’s initial croons of offering a helping hand to a lover. “Ammi Ammi” likewise feels positive, with the narrator found transfixed and melted over a woman that plays him Barry White. “She’s the type I carry by my side/keeps me balanced, keeps her talons in my thighs,” he slinks out with his low-key, but enamored croon.
The mood flips mid-album, though, following a sarcastic sample from a Brit comedy routine about the nature of courtship. Though instantly intoxicating, the waterfall of synths and easy listening tones on “Sex with Nobody” have Marshall running from fantasies of South Pacific honeymoons towards a closing mantra of “Some men are dogs, to be specific.”
The back half is where the soundtrack excels. “Eyes Adrift” is a Benadryl-dipped wonder that suggests Marshall should be shipping off some beats to his pals in New York rap trio Ratking. Though slowed down to an icy snap, “Empty Vessels” runs wild with scale-climbing bass lines.
The romance comes to an end with penultimate cut “Dull Boys,” a dank boom tune wherein the woman in the story “plans for her exit.” Echo-blown statements of disconnection fill the cut, with the mood plunging even further on epic finale, “Thames Water.”
Tough times are explained in the obliterating wooziness of the arrangement, with it coming out that the escapee apparently “lost her powers in the powder she adores.” “When it rains it fucking pours,” Marshall says crestfallen, adding to the maxim, “soaking all of us scum to the core.” Despite the depressing scenario, it’s a devastatingly beautiful ending to the LP.
Apparently, Marshall has found a New Place 2 Drown. Hopefully he can keep his head up above water long enough to produce another exquisitely murky, melancholy release.
-review by Gregory Adams