Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

King Krule wades a little too far into reflection and restraint on Space Heavy

"Space Heavy"

Release date: 09 June 2023
King Krule - Space Heavy cover
08 June 2023, 09:00 Written by Kyle Kohner

He's only 28, but it feels like we've known him for decades.

With every record and at every point of his phenomic career, Archy Marshall has always been outside of time, and that's no different now on the new album Space Heavy. And yet, we now have much more to look back on in retrospect – to compare and observe Marshall's personal and artistic growth.

Once a boyish bedroom rocker who captured, perfectly, the anxieties and fears of those his age, Marshall is now a loving father, though still babyfaced himself, of a fully cognisant daughter. But as much as she's grown since we encountered her as a newborn through her father's poetic lullabies on Man Alive!, he has even more. These kinds of life changes can completely alter an individual, and on Space Heavy, Marshall has grown tenfold – more observant of his own psyche and more capable of regulating the emotions and memories flowing from it to better convey them through the intense poetic introspection and bedroom punk and jazz compositions that define the music of King Krule. But no longer does his music sound distraughtly alien as it has deeply human. On Space Heavy, it's simply human – monotonously so.

Nevertheless, Space Heavy couldn't have a better start. Album opener "Flimsier unfolds with a dissonant synth line and precisely mournful guitars mimicking a yearning Marshall who lifts his baritone a couple of registers higher, as he sings about the more assured embrace that the darkness provides his weary heart: "When this night bleeds / It could love mе forever..." This beautiful opener quickly gives way to a precisely placed ripper, the self-deprecating and lovelorn "Pink Shell", but the spike in energy this pissed-off moment stirs up is short-lived, as lead single 'Seaforth' talks listeners off the ledge with a gentle, forward-momentum love letter to an unrequited love existent only in dreams, a letter intended for his very real and tangible daughter too.

"Seaforth" is the most moving moment off Space Heavy, and maybe even of Marshall's entire body of work. It reflects the record's motif of travelling the synapse between home and dreams, a fractured world and one idyllic in said dreams. Within this space, he embraces a faith in something better, despite the calamity and groundlessness abounding within him: “I see you, my same eyes / Reflect the world that falls apart / There's a fire in our hearts /Baby, this faith is all I have.”

While the first few tracks of Space Heavy appear to ready listeners for a merely matured version of Marshall's typical dichotomic alchemy of tone and tenor, the rest of the record, sadly, is stuck in a muddy, ethereal lull as one moves down the tracklist. Aside from a few unmistakable detours, like "Seagirl", which surprises only because of the simple presence of another voice, or the title track, which hears Marshall go absolutely nuts, straining his gravelly voice even more than it naturally is, Marshall has moved away from music that hooks and intrigues. He has instead decided to push listers into a stew of slow-consuming sonics in hopes we will stay invested in what he has to say. Such a risky move from someone with a distinguished formula nailed down, but should we be surprised?

Slowly, with every release, Marshall has threaded his musical vision with more and more pensiveness and atmosphere, slowly stripping away tension and a knack for drama. Unfortunately, Marshall may have leaned too far and fast into his inevitable evolution on Space Heavy; songs like the reverb-soaked "Empty Stomach Space Cadet", the sparse closer "Wednesday Overcast" and many other moments in between bring these proclivities into full scope, the results sluggish and unmiraculous.

At its worst, Space Heavy can be too pensive and even sleep-inducing. The tightening and release, the compression and decompression – tension – that has always been the wellspring of life for all Marshall's previous records is waning. There is no back and forth within the very space of these new ethereal and meandering sounds; instead, there is one extended release of anxiety that unwinds with a lackadaisical lull, resulting in Marshall's least engaging effort yet. Although it's great to hear the forever prodigy in a better headspace, more mature and precise with his words and emotions, it was the youthful messiness echoed in past efforts that made King Krule far more intriguing than what listeners will experience under the lingering gloom of Space Heavy.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next