The US-born guitarist, singer, producer and seminal no wave artist, who cut his teeth on Tropicália and lives in Rio de Janeiro, considers the debut album by the British jazz-punk balladeer. Interview conducted by Michael Lutz.
King Krule is only nineteen years old, and that’s remarkable when considering the craftsmanship of his record 6 Feet Beneath the Moon. People oddly tend to file his music under electronic genres, especially UK bass stuff or dubstep. That’s probably because he appears to be a scion of James Blake. But in all honesty, I don’t know why. They’re so different, instrumentally. Atmospherically, however, there are certain similarities. One could say that both are young and melancholy. But so are many others. Maybe it’s because both are extremely precocious. Though King Krule is not nearly as electronic as James Blake, he achieves a lot of the same mood through traditional instruments.
A good person to relate King Krule’s music to is Lou Reed, because Lou Reed has a very simple structure and just sings or sometimes even speaks over it. King Krule is more of a singer, but the structure is similarly straightforward. He’s free in what he does because the harmonic structures are plain—just two chords in a song for example, and then when he goes to change, it gets very telling. These moments make clear that he knows something about music. He does something that’s very musicianly and makes choices only somebody who knows how to write a song would make. He uses kind of an eighties bass sound and dub techniques—pretty basic. In almost every song it’s a voice, a guitar and either hand-played drums or an electronic beat. Out of this he builds something subtle, but I don’t want to call it old-fashioned. It’s more like he’s studying the ways a song can or can’t be built, like on “Easy Easy” or “Has This Hit?” In that regard the music is definitely retro.
Traces of dubstep, its repetitive patterns and atmospheres, can be found here too. And when he breaks up these repetitive arrangements it gets very telling, emotionally speaking. He sounds thoughtful, but not depressed, and that’s a relief because there’s so many comparable young artists that massively exploit melancholy just to boost atmosphere. All too often this ends up with pathetic results. King Krule is not pathetic at all. What he does is some weird kind of serious singer-songwriter R&B.
The lyrics are very poetic, and they try hard to be abstract. There are other songwriters of this generation who’re capable of telling a story much more plainly, but with King Krule it’s like he gets more from the sound of his voice than from the lyrics themselves. He’s content to offer fragments. They make sense a few words at a time, but they don’t really make sense all together, which is kind of nice. He’s got that heavy UK accent, and it took me a while to get past that, because it’s almost that he’s defiantly singing that way. It’s obviously a choice and in the end I think a good one.
A friend of mine recently sent me link to a Rinse FM show guest moderated by King Krule. It starts with one of my own tracks, “Illuminated”, and right after that, King Krule says something like, “Arto Lindsay really influenced me.” I had heard of him before and found his stuff is pretty cool, so fuck yeah I was flattered. ~
6 Feet Beneath the Moon is out now on XL Recordings. This text first appeared first in Electronic Beats Magazine N° 36 (4, 2013). Read the full issue on issuu.com or in the embed below.
Published January 20, 2014. Words by Michael Lutz.