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Khruangbin, A Groove UFO

By Charlotte Saintoin |

Pop-funk, jazz-dub, offbeat flamenco, African or Korean scents... The third album from the Texan trio has a lot to offer and shows off the band’s many influences. A very rich record.

Still signed to Dead Oceans, Khruangbin releases Mordechai, which is set to become one of the flagship albums of 2020. Khruangbin (pronounced "Kroongbin", which means "plane" in Thai and which they chose simply by saying “why does it matter, nobody’s going to care”) are a wig-wearing Texan trio with Laura Lee on vocals and bass, the central elements of their music.

The two other members, Mark Speer and Donald Johnson, met in Houston in a Methodist church where the former played guitar and the latter played the organ. A fascination for the Middle East led them to Laura and after a tour where Speer and Lee opened for Bonobo, the three decided to jam in a barn in Burton, a small town of 300. There, the insatiable diggers recorded the extraordinary album The Universe Smile Upon You, which drew on 60s Thai funk with long psychedelic instrumentals, then Con Todo El Mondo with its Caribbean sounds and Middle Eastern harmonies.

On closer inspection, their name seems appropriate, as Khruangbin flies from one place to another at a confounding speed. For the third album, the trio goes full throttle. Less hypnotic than the first, less eclectic than the second but still as deep in sound research. Mordechai gives pride of place to its singer whose muffled voice reverberates over the ten tracks. From the Spanish Pelota and its rumba scents and the pop-funk of Time (You And I) to the jazz-dub of One to Remember, from Africa to Korea via Pakistan, it would be futile to try and label the musical richness of the opus.

Sculpted by bass, nourished by sounds from all over the world, the atmosphere reigns supreme; primordial and always soaring. Mordechai is, for Khruangbin, “a celebration of Houston, the eclectic city that had nurtured us, and a cultural nexus where you can check out country and zydeco, trap rap, or avant-garde opera on any given night.”


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