In the decade since the melancholic soundscapes of 6 Feet Beneath the Moon first graced our ears, King Krule has been an artist who's kept us perpetually enthralled. From the Jazzy ambience of The Ooz to the muddy post-punk wails of Man Alive! King Krule, aka Archy Marshall, has proved time and again that he is cut from a different cloth.
With his distinct cinematic style of sonic auteurism, Archy persists in carving his own path. Uniquely influenced by a diverse range of genres, from 70s and 80s punk to modern hip-hop, New York No Wave to classic Jazz; he crafts music for the soul and is one of the most sonically diverse voices in the modern music scene.
This year, King Krule bestowed upon us his fourth LP, Space Heavy. The record is a moody odyssey of dissonant vocals and warm jazzy tones through which Archy gracefully navigates the trials and tribulations of love and newfound fatherhood; marking a mature milestone in his ever-evolving career.
A milestone we were ever so enticingly awaiting to witness within the confines of Manchesters Academy 1.
Image: King Krule on Facebook
The pilgrimage down Oxford Road to Manchester Academy was an adventure in itself. Navigating through the eclectic crowd also making the journey, we were met with a sea of vintage jackets, baggy jeans, and heterogeneous haircuts. There's a distinct theme here – a fusion of a queue and a fashion show. It's as if everyone wants to channel their inner Archy, even if the deceptively warm weather wasn’t cooperating with the attentively arranged fits.
Inside the Academy, anticipation was palpable. As support act Sarah Meth played through her set, she brought a unique brand of lonerist vulnerability to those who had packed out the Academy to see her. It was an intimate set, lined with emotional points that wouldn't feel amiss on a King Krule record. Jazzy yet reserved, it was a wonderful start to the night.
As her set culminated, the stage was quickly transformed, draped in a Space Heavy art banner, and ready and primed for Archy, alongside his trusty collaborators - saxophonist Ignacio Salvadores, drummer George Bass, bassist James Wilson, and guitarist Jack Towell – to grace us with their presence.
Then, it happens. The moment we've all been waiting for. Archy strolls onto the stage, and the crowd erupts into anthemic bellows of "Archy, Archy, Archy." Without missing a beat, he launches into an electrifying two-pronged opening, centered around tracks from "Man Alive" – "Cellular" and "Alone, Omen 3." The room comes alive with a moody fervour. Some want to go wild, but they're too cool for that, while others couldn't care less. A groovy, head-banging, boisterous start.
After a quick hello, Archy dove straight into a fan-favourite from The Ooz, "Dum Surfer," and the crowd went absolutely wild. A visceral experience brought on by a truly massive tune.
Next, we were treated to our first glimpse of Space Heavy with "Pink Shell," before running it back to the Zoo Kid days with "A Lizard State." This New York No Wave-inspired track from his youth is raw and unwavering, showcasing Archy's enduring talent; it’s hard to believe he wrote this when he was a teenager.
The 6 or 7 tracks that followed launched the gig into an exploration of "Space Heavy," an album filled with enticing contradictions, ethereal cosmic grunge, and sumptuously dissonant saxophone melodies. Archy effortlessly growled his way through these tracks, exuding an unparalleled coolness. ‘Hamburgerphobia’ and ‘Flimsier’ were particular highlights.
Another highlight, this time not with the music but their on-stage presence, was undoubtedly saxophonist Ignacio Salvadores. When his lungs weren’t needed, he danced around the stage like a man possessed by the groove, providing a riotous spectacle that only added to the energy of the performance.
Image: Space Heavy Album Cover
As the gig went on, it became clear that Archy doesn't believe in mid-gig lulls. Just when you thought the crowd might settle after a few softer numbers, he unleashed the livewire duo of "Easy Easy" and "Stoned Again," and suddenly, electricity surges through the Mancunian faithful.
You don't have to be well-versed in music to recognise each member of the band truly are masters of their disciplines; effortlessly transitioning from heavy, guttural numbers to gorgeously melodic and entrancing tunes.
There isn't a moment where everyone's eyes are not transfixed on the stage.
"Slush Puppy" and "Baby Blue" follow and have the audience singing along, but they also ease us into the end of the gig. Unlike many performers, King Krule prefers to save some of his slower songs for last. It makes for a mesmeric conclusion that leaves you standing there, mouth agape, in awe of the musical genius unfolding before your eyes. Each member of Archy's band is engrossed in their role, and Archy himself, cool as ever, growling along in that distinct way of his. It's nothing short of magical.
Archy has proven time and time again he is a master of all disciplines, effortlessly transitioning from heavy, guttural numbers to gorgeously melodic and entrancing tunes. It's spellbinding to watch in person.
As the main section of the night ended with the unreleased cult track, "It's All Soup Now," Archy playfully asks the audience for their best cat impression (to spur on the opening line “There's a cat on the roof”), kicking off into the track as the crowd hilariously meowed back.
Gentle tones soundtracked mesmeric lights, with dissonant spurts of sax filling empty soundscapes, constantly searching for other instruments to latch onto but only finding the spaced-out snarl of Archy's vocals. Following the "it was all soup now" refrain that marks the beginning of the end, the band exploded into the climax of the track, with every instrument joining for a cacophonous groove that saw them off stage.
The emphatic chants of "one more song" quickly fill the room once the stage empties, and it was only ever going to be one track, wasn't it? "Out Getting Ribs" has been the soundtrack to countless lonely nights and nostalgic strolls through our younger years. It's a track that, from the first subtle pluck of its main riff, transports you back to the time when you first heard it – a fitting end to a truly fantastic gig.
In the end, King Krule's latest performance at Manchester Academy was a whirlwind of oft-quelled emotions, a sonic journey through time and space. Archy, backed by his exceptional band, delivered a night that left us all spellbound, reminding us why he's a force to be reckoned with in the music world. Archy, if you're reading this, thanks for a night we won't soon forget. Oh, and release "It’s All Soup Now!"
Fancy getting yourself down to see some live music, that may or may not match King Krule's sensational show in Manchester, then Skiddle is your place. We have a huge variety of gigs with tickets now on sale, and you can find the best of the bunch on our UK Gig Guide, which you can find by clicking or tapping - HERE
Check out our What's On Guide to discover more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.
Header image credit: King Krule on Facebook