Khruangbin (Thai for airplane, or literally "engine fly") are a jet-setting trio from Texas whose smooth, mainly instrumental music is heavily inspired by Thai rock and funk from the '60s and '70s, as well as a multitude of other influences ranging from surf rock to dub to Iranian pop. Active since the early 2010s, the group's indefinable yet singular and highly accessible sound has attracted a remarkably wide audience. Following the release of their second album, 2018's Con Todo el Mundo, Khruangbin were regularly playing sold-out concerts around the globe, and their music had become a fixture of various streaming platforms. The band formed after guitarist Mark Speer and bassist Laura Lee performed with Yppah while opening for Bonobo's 2010 American tour. Speer and Lee began working on music together, and Speer's bandmate Donald Johnson, Jr. -- also a prolific Southern rap producer -- became the group's drummer. The trio debuted with a self-released cassette and a 7", and their song "A Calf Born in Winter" was included on Bonobo's 2013 LateNightTales mix. Response to the song was overwhelmingly positive, and the group were signed to Night Time Stories Ltd. Following a limited Record Store Day 7" of "A Calf Born in Winter," the band's 10" EP The Infamous Bill was released in 2014. History of Flight, a 2015 Record Store Day EP, featured covers of songs by some of the group's influences, including Serge Gainsbourg and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Khruangbin's full-length debut, The Universe Smiles Upon You, arrived by the end of 2015, and a remix EP followed in 2016. The year proved to be an important one for Khruangbin -- they opened for Father John Misty throughout his tour of the U.K. and Europe, and they embarked on headlining tours throughout the U.K. and America. The band's second album, Con Todo el Mundo, was released in early 2018, and they hit the road on highly successful tours with the Mattson 2 and Leon Bridges. By the end of the year, the group had issued a limited concert LP (Live at Lincoln Hall) and a cover of Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here," in addition to collaborating with Maribou State for the song "Feel Good." In mid-2019, they released Hasta el Cielo, a dub reggae version of the album. It featured different song titles, echoing mixes, and two versions whipped up by legendary dub producer Scientist. ~ Paul Simpson
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 12, 2019 | Dead Oceans
Khruangbin's second album, 2018's Con Todo el Mundo, was the Texas trio's breakout; their relaxed blend of dub, funk, soul, and psych from around the world struck a chord with loads of people looking for something different. Hasta el Cielo is a dub reworking of that album that leans heavily on the rubbery bass playing of Laura Lee and steady drumming of Donald "DJ" Johnson, while sidelining Mark Speer's guitar playing for the most part. His distinctive lines dart in and out of the mix, sometimes subsumed by echo and other times beaming into the mix in gleaming shards. It's an interesting choice since his guitar lines were often what made Con Todo el Mundo as distinctive as it was. When they're subtracted and replaced by echo and other effects, the result is that the music slides seamlessly into the background and it's easier than the band likely hoped to zone out as the songs drift past. The versions lack the punch and power of the best dub and too often opt for sounding chilled out instead of interesting. It's a very faithful take on dub that hews a little too closely to the basic template of the style -- and adds precious little of the imagination or style the trio usually bring to their sound. None of that means that the album isn't a pleasant listening experience, because it is. What it isn't is a memorable listening experience. Even the two dubs added to the end of the record by the legendary dub producer Scientist aren't very compelling. The band surely meant for this to be a stopgap until their next album, but rather than giving this a spin it would be more rewarding to go back to Con Todo el Mundo and enjoy its many charms instead. The ways they explore the outer reaches of dub on that album are truly exciting, while this comes off like a school assignment in comparison. ~ Tim Sendra
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