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Henry Laurisch

Tracing King Krule’s devotion to the colour blue

“The blue cave, dark deep lonely blue, oh so lonely blue”

“I seem to sink lower,” King Krule coos in his signature speak-sing deadpan baritone on “Biscuit Town,” the striking opener of his expansive new album The Ooz. And sink he does, as the set finds Archy Marshall in familiar fashion as his triumphant breakthrough debut album 6 Feet Beneath The Moon – with the South Londoner once again howling about youthful tropes of isolation, utter dissatisfaction with the world at large, and the oft-beleaguered apathy associated with “creative types.”

But one thing remains constant in the palette of King Krule more than any other: a prolonged, career fixation with the colour blue. During his ascent to the mainstream in 2013, which earned him widespread critical praise from the likes of Beyonce and Frank Ocean, Krule referred to his unique sonic amalgam – a fusion of jazz, punk, and calypso influences – as ‘Blue Wave’, telling MTV News that he was in his “blue period”, alluding to a similarity between his music’s melancholic shading and that of Picasso’s, whose famed affinity for the colour lasted only a few short years at the turn of the 20th century, and was initially spurred by the death of a close friend. “It’s my Picasso. It's my Blue wave,” he explained. “It casts a blue over myself, and it’s a wave of music. It’s a wave of sound. It’s a wave of physicality coming toward the people.”

Throughout popular music, blue has also proved a consistent muse for countless artists – as showcased in seminal works by Joni Mitchell (1971’s Blue) and Miles Davis (1959’s Kind of Blue), to Weezer's ‘Blue Album’ (Weezer). Outside of music, Krule has namechecked David Lynch as a major influence in recent profiles in the New York Times and Pitchfork – a filmmaker who is similarly captivated by the colour, repeatedly using it as a visual symbol in his oeuvre (see: Blue Velvet, the blue box in Mulholland Drive, or the blue rose in Twin Peaks).

During his less-than-a-decade in the public eye, Krule’s attraction to all things azure has remained a signature of his artistry and fully embedded in his lyrics, highlighted first in early cut “Portrait in Black and Blue” off his first self-titled EP to 6 Feet’s standout “Baby Blue” and even a recent collaboration with Mount Kimbie (“Blue Train Lines”). But interestingly, Krule finds himself more immersed in this “Blue Wave” on The Ooz than ever, with the title leading to repeated thematic allusions – from the imagery of water (oceans, seas) to the celestial (Venus, the moon).

“Krule’s attraction to all things azure has remained a signature of his artistry and fully embedded in his lyrics”

As a symbol, the colour blue presents a deluge of negative connotations, from sadness and depression to the general plague of mental illness. Krule delves deep here, beginning with the direct admission “I think we might be bipolar” in “Biscuit Town”. On “Sublunary” (a word which is defined as “belonging to this world as contrasted with a better or more spiritual one”), Krule makes the connection between the colour and madness (“I’m not here / sublunary / I was made for sublunary / And in shades of blue lunacy”), while on “Midnight 01 (Deep Sea Diver)”, he asks if his sorrow is the cause of his isolation (“Why’d you leave me? / Because of my depression”) before retreating (“Those blue hours, those blue hours, those blue hours, that blue shift”). Krule’s fixation on the colour and personal struggle with his own “blues” results in a sort of disappearing act, as he sings on “Czech One”: “As the sea of darkness forms, it casts us into night.” On the stark album standout “The Cadet Leaps”, he admits “We ooz two souls / pastel blues,” before getting lost again, “swimming through the blue lagoon.”

The lush set is also drowned in reflection – with Krule waxing nostalgic about his past, and musing about his personal body of work. “A new place to drown / Six feet beneath the moon,” he sings on “Bermondsey Bosom 2”, referencing his 2015 collaboration with his brother as well as his debut, before perhaps alluding to his many nom de plumes throughout his career: “He arose a bloodsucker / painting black and blue objects with projections of himself.”

On the set’s most explicit ode to the colour, “Lonely Blue”, it’s clear that while the shading has become a source of sonic inspiration, it also presents a source of personal refuge for the star, in its associations with calm and serenity, as well as a way to escape from his quick rise to stardom and avoidance of fame. “The blue cave, dark deep unknown,” he sings, once again making his retreat inward. “So lonely blue, oh so lonely blue.”

“‘The blue cave, dark deep unknown,’” he sings, once again making his retreat inward. “‘So lonely blue, oh so lonely blue’”

“I went overboard with that word and those allusions to prove that they’re mine and not anyone else’s,” Krule told Vulture about the repeated allusions to the colour throughout the set in a recent profile. “It was kind of aggressive in a way. These are my metaphors, that’s in my universe, these are my words that I use. I guess it was a warning as well, a fuck-you to a lot of people trying to use my tonality.”

But for all Krule’s preoccupation with the metaphor and the general conceit of sinking felt throughout The Ooz, his masterpiece closes with the hope that he will one day be lifted back up. “Well I crave ways to dry,” he repeats on the rain soaked LP closer “La Lune”, relenting that someday soon he might be rescued from himself, that his ‘blue period’ may not last forever. “It won’t be long till you’re inside, till you’re inside my heart,” he murmurs, hopeful. “To be with you, such a view, to be elevated to you, to be elevated to you.”