Review: King Krule Glides Through Select Cuts with Jazz Band in ‘Live on the Moon’

King Krule updates eight songs from 2017’s The OOZ, backed by a jazz quintet, in a dreamy video set on the moon.

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The Ooz - King Krule
The OOZ – King Krule

King Krule’s The OOZ (one of my favorite albums in recent years) flirted with jazz sounds on a number of tracks, which explains why Archy Marshall (the man behind King Krule) uploaded a video of a studio set reimagining eight tracks in a dreamy jazz setting. Replete with smooth horns and adept drumming, the relatively mellow tracks take on a new life, channeling equally the atmosphere of late Coltrane and the jangling guitars of early Pavement.

The video, directed by Ja Humby, continues Marshall’s career-spanning fascination with the moon, and for part of the set he wears a full astronaut suit — he takes the helmet off when he needs to sing. The backdrop is a crater, and the performance is filmed to look particularly spacey. King Krule, though, has never been one to get caught up in visual aesthetics — the focus is undoubtedly on the music, which sounds as good as any other CDQ recording.

King Krule - Live on the Moon

After kicking things off with an ambient instrumental that samples a few OOZ songs, the band plays “Dum Surfer,” one of the album’s singles. The vocals sound remarkably good, which helps to clarify some of the song’s musings about the ripple effect. The track has elements of surf rock and dub, but it doesn’t belong to any genre. The inclusion of saxophones and jazz-tinged rhythms on this version adds a nice layer to the harmonious cacophony, which clanging, interlocked guitars propel forward.

Following the speedy rendition of “Dum Surfer” comes the slow-burning “The Locomotive,” a howling ballad about waiting for trains “in the dead of night.” The full ensemble’s presence—especially the integration of smooth, R&B-style drumming—pushes the song away from its lofi roots, opting instead for a jazz-fusion sound. The band veers from the studio version considerably, with an extended vamp towards the end that builds over a melodic arpeggiating bass line.

On “Midnight 01 (Deep Sea Diver),” one of the album’s real standouts, the band locks into an infectious groove over a series of beautifully meandering guitar chords, grounded by cool, swung drumming. Offbeat guitar chords bounce off of the other instruments, which are mostly steady aside from some short fills. The subject matter is about as grim as it gets—“Why’d you leave me? Because of my depression? You used to complete me, but I guess I learnt a lesson,” — but the group soars through the track’s off kilter jazz jam.

King Krule - Live on the Moon
King Krule – Live on the Moon

When they tackle the “Logos/Sublunary” medley, which on the album integrates elements of laid-back jazz rap (echoing Marshall’s work on A New Place 2 Drown and City Rivims Mk 1), it is within a more jazz-oriented framework. The clashing piano chords sound like the work of Thelonious Monk, and wild saxophone solos fill out the atmosphere. On the former track, the vocals are still rapped, and Krule chooses a simple rhyme scheme that the other instruments compliment well.

Effectively the former song’s outro, “Sublunary” differs dramatically from its album counterpart. A syncopated drum beat gives the song a cleaner structure, but interspersed horns and keys still blur the lines nicely between chords. The song contains on of The OOZ’s core thesis statements—“I was made for Sublunary”—which, delivered against a lunar visual backdrop, feels like the video’s defining moment.

Complimented by brief, fleeting visual interludes of cobwebbed guitars and shots of the moon, the video’s version of “Lonely Blue” highlights Krule’s guitar work, which matches his voice nicely to give the song’s melody some depth. Gloomy background noise precedes the sudden transitions from spacey chords to hard rock arpeggios, and the track quickly morphs into “A Slide In (New Drugs).”

King Krule - Live on the Moon
King Krule – Live on the Moon

“A Slide In” is a strange song, comprised of a series of dissonant chords, but also a simple one—it’s more about the progression of small musical ideas over time than about rapid shifts in song structure. That’s what makes this performance’s abrupt leap into a Radiohead-esque heavy guitar outro so surprising, and it shows that Krule is still meditating on all of these songs, tinkering as he sees fit, even though the album is already out. The Ooz is, like The Life of Pablo, a living collection of songs, and as Marshall surely knows, in reality the video would have lacked its charm if the performance diverged less from the studio recordings.

A soulful and orchestrated “The Cadet Leaps” finishes off the video, providing an anticlimactic but fitting conclusion to a diverse set of songs. It never builds to anything, intentionally, and it only features a few lines from Krule, but they perfectly encapsulate the entire video’s vibe: “Above and beyond all the rooftops, the space cadet waltz’ through the sky, lost in his search for distant forms of life, Lucifer’s dream, no one could hold him down.” At 23 years old, Archy Marshall has earned the right to experiment freely with his music, and he proudly treats this as a responsibility.

Watch: ‘Live on the Moon’ – King Krule

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The Ooz - King Krule

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