King Krule’s ‘Space Heavy’

Written by Maya Baker.

King Krule’s Space Heavy is an album that discusses loneliness, strain, and of course, space. Written during commutes between London and Liverpool between 2020 and 2022, the album is a melancholic reflection of one man’s fascination with ‘the space between’.

The general sound of the album is a warm, cerebral branch of post-punk indie, glowing with oscillating synthesizers and flanging guitar loops. As with King Krule’s (real name Archy Marshall) wider discography, his distinctive baritone vocals hold a delicate balance between being on the brink of tears and lamenting rage. His lyricism seamlessly dips in and out of narratives, recalling memories with wit and frank vulnerability, speaking of paranoia and anxiety against the backdrop of mundane daily life. This style of poetic lyricism mixed with candidly British observation is characteristic of political songwriter Billy Bragg, one of Marshall’s many eclectic influences. In Space Heavy, it’s through this poetic introspection and descriptions of memories that Marshall exposes the space between one’s mental landscape and that of their surroundings. The use of delay and reverb on the vocals throughout creates the perfect ambiance for such melancholic lyrics.

Released in April of this year, ‘Seaforth’, the first single from the album, perfectly captures the mood of the album in four minutes. The lyrics are about dreaming of a long-distance lover, long train journeys and adoration that transcends physical space. Subdued twangs of guitar intertwine with sandy drum loops, warm woodwind and saxophone that trembles beneath Marshall’s vocals. The sequential nature of the song evokes a similar mood to the feeling one gets on a long, familiar commute – after all, the song is named after a train station.

The artwork for Space Heavy is as warm and subdued as the album is sonically: Painted by Marshall’s brother, Jack Marshall, the cover depicts a grey monolith in the middle of a maroon sea, representing a lumbering space between two people. The use of airbrushing in the artwork perfectly illustrates both the softness of the album as well as the harsher, punkier interjections. The diffused background provided by the colour gradient and setting is similar to the album’s sonic background per-se, established by the wide-open soundscapes of songs like ‘Flimsier’, ‘That Is My Life, That Is Yours’ and ‘Seagirl’. Moreover, the black waves in the image have more defined edges, reflecting tracks like ‘Pink Shelland ‘Hamburgerphobia’, featuring tighter bass and percussion than the rest of the album, as well as moments of chaos within otherwise placid songs such as the title track. The hectic, flittering saxophone in the song ‘Space Heavy’ imitates the mental strain and bouts of frustration provoked by an excess of emptiness, even serenity, much like heavy waves disrupting a calm sea.

King Krule has successfully carved a warm, cavernous chamber in the vast genre of ‘Indie’ with Space Heavy, further enforcing his status as an established figure in the contemporary alternative arts scene. Deriving elements from jazz, post-punk and ambient electronic music, the album embodies the sensitivity and familiarity of much indie music while propelling the genre forward. This album will influence songwriters and musicians across fields, as the rest of Marshall’s esteemed discography has and will continue to do.

Written by Maya Baker, edited and published by Lottie Macro, photography by Maya Baker.