Revisiting Archy Marshall’s Magnum Opus - A New Place 2 Drown
When talking about the relationships that Archy Marshall might have with some of the biggest names in the charts right now, it might not come as a surprise that he would brush them off nonchalantly. Is it because of his effortlessly composed mannerisms or perhaps because he knows just how talented he really is?
In fact, the 27-year-old singer, songwriter, producer and South Londoner, better known as King Krule because of his band, has been heard to have declined working with rapper and producer Kanye West, endorsed by Beyoncé, covered by Willow Smith, and he once produced for rapper Earl Sweatshirt. He also previously revealed that Frank Ocean visited him in London to ask if he would produce something for him, but as Marshall put it back in 2017, "I don’t think he liked it."
To say I’m a fan of Archy Marshall would be an understatement. Since his first studio album Six Feet Beneath the Moon back in 2013, not only has Marshall become one of my favourite artists of all time, but he’s also known as a tuned paragon within the music world. But there was one particular project that has aged like fine wine; the multimedia project consisting of a short film, soundtrack and book, A New Place 2 Drown which was strung together by an abundance of last-minute secret sets and art exhibitions throughout the year, anticipating its release on the 10th of December 2015.
Created in collaboration with his brother Jack Marshall, they produced a multidisciplinary love letter to South London, encompassing film, music, photography, illustration and spoken word. Much of this project was featured early on in his Jack’s art exhibition in Chancery Lane, London titled 'Low Battery', but it was even before this that the duo has been known to be creatively close. The exhibition contained a multitude of hand-painted pieces of artwork, as well as a lot of photographs and an old book filled with poetry and doodles (which later I realised contained lyrics to tracks from the album). Jack also created the album covers for his brother, such as his self-titled EP and Six Feet Beneath the Moon, beforehand. However, this solo exhibition was aimed to capture the rhythmic identity of the city, connecting themes of gentrification, advertising, vandalism and noise pollution in his artwork. It tied in nicely for the album, which was then said to actually be a soundtrack for the visual book they released.
What made this project all the more special was that the two brothers joined artistic forces to put together a selection of photography, poetry and artwork. "The art he showed me, and a different way of looking at things - he showed me a different mentality, and it helped me grow a lot," Archy Marshall said to RockFeed back in 2013.
To give us more of an understanding as to why the brothers decided to follow these themes and show their thought processes, Jack said to me when I caught him in the smoking area of an Archy Marshall DJ set that if it had been anywhere else in the world, he still would have been inadvertently drawing attention to his hometown. "I think colder climates breed creativity because people are always a bit more miserable and find escape by creating alternate realities through art or music," he said whilst taking a drag of his rollie.
And being miserable, falling short and feelings of being disconnected are big themes within A New Place 2 Drown.
With ANP2D, the first thing we noticed was how it was created under Archy Marshall’s proper name and not one of his many monikers that you might have heard thrown about such as Zoo Kid, Edgar the Beatmaker or DJ JD Sports to name just a few. It was a new, fresh-faced venture; a more personal expression of delving deep into genres that inspire Marshall the most, which turned out to be alternative Hip-Hop.
But this wasn’t the first time that we heard Marshall creep into producing this sort of sound. Although his debut album was heavily Alternative and Indie based, the element of rap or spoken word lingered through track lyrics, such as in 'Neptune Estate' or 'Cementality' from album Six Feet Beneath the Moon.
But with ANP2D there is a notable shift into this genre. He is surrounded by poetry, a slumping drowsy bassline and putting his distinctive scratchy baritone vocals on top of it all.
"Girl there is nothing to please/can’t you just lay by my side/isn’t it easy to see/how I'm mistaken my pride/must be somewhere else," he spits on 'Empty Vessels' before transitioning fluidly into 'New Builds' where he speaks with only short pauses acting like a metronome.
This album reproduces the gloom and loneliness of early 90s NYC Hip-Hop from artists such as Wu-Tang Clan or Diggin’ in the Crates Crew, but he transforms the sounds into something that oozes into his own style. We can hear this in tracks such as 'Eye’s Drift' or 'Buffed Sky' where we get this sluggish rap that ebbs along with a slow tempo. Pitch changes and mumbled vocal delivery in tracks like 'Sex With Nobody' and 'Dull Boys' narrows the gap between the music he admires and the music he produces. Each track flows into the next without a break, so you can’t really tell when one ends, and another begins.
Immersion seems to be the primary theme from start to finish, with sub-themes such as water, sadness, loneliness, drugs and relationships. We’re given a chance to be swallowed into the art from start to finish as the album effortlessly flows into each song one after the other, whether it’s through a beat change or sample from an old British television show.
Whilst the lyrics can be somewhat haunting and elusive, they coast past you before you have a real chance to understand what they mean. Bars dissipate and merge into the next, but we still follow a storyline throughout and seeing into Marshall’s moods, such as in the line "I'm pretty sure I'm dying as I speak" he leisurely utters on 'Arise Dear Brother' or "She plays me Barry White all night" he yearns on in 'Ammi Ammi' to sombrely speaking "I’ve lost all my dignity/She don’t even mean that much to me" in 'Dull Boys'.
In tune with all this, the final closing track is special. It’s compelling, dark and speaks about his life, on how no one is really doing that great, whether it be himself or in his close circle. Interestingly, the song credits both Archy Marshall and King Krule. Presumably created alongside his band, we hear a piano at the start and Marshall’s scratchy, baritone and distorted vocals. With a beat change in just under two minutes, we then get to hear again the Hip-Hop element that has transcended from the start, with wistful lyrics such as "She lost her power in the powder she adored". It has the repetition in the lyrics, the beat, and the spoken word element, but also a transition at 4 minutes and 20 seconds that breaks the track away from any of the others and delivers a poetic story. It becomes altered and distorted towards the end before fading out at just over 7 minutes long.
The question is, will he be able to produce something as special and unique as ANP2D? His two albums that came after, The OOZ and Man Alive!, as well as his live album You Heat Me Up, You Cool Me Down still emitted that wonderfully drowsy sound that we fell in love with in the first place. As he is currently on hiatus after the birth of his first child, there’s no knowing if Archy Marshall will be back with another project that can reach the same level that A New Place 2 Drown did.