Review: Khruangbin’s second album hypnotic, exotic
Houston funk trio Khruangbin has released another beautifully compelling album with its sophomore effort, “Con Todo El Mundo.”
Khruangbin’s debut album, “The Universe Smiles Upon You,” was an exquisitely fresh record that introduced many to the band’s talents of taking a crate-digger’s knowledge of old-school sounds and rhythms found on the international scene and creating a soundscape that felt simultaneously of this world and free from it. Fans will be pleased guitarist Mark Speer, bassist Laura Lee and drummer Donald “D.J.” Johnson continue on the same flight pattern with “Con Todo El Mundo” that they did with “Universe” and deliver an album rich in hypnotic sounds and exotic textures that creates a world perfect for losing yourself in.
The band sets the tone early from the first, longing notes of opener “Como Me Quieres.” The track’s delicate interplay between Speer’s dew-drop notes, Lee’s comforting rhythm and Johnson’s subtle persistence creates a dawn-like atmosphere that wakes your senses as if you were arising to the first bits of light gracing the Euphrates River.
It’s hard not to create such beautiful vignettes in your head as “Con Todo El Mundo“ reveals itself through your speakers. For one, the trio’s knowledge and understanding of vintage music from around the world gives the band a vast palette of sonic colors with which to paint their masterpieces. This record is infused with an exhilarating blend of sounds from Iran, Turkey, Spain, shading the album in hazy desert tones. Furthermore, Speer, Lee and Johnson have a crisp, technical style that help give their songs clear, sharp lines and the absence of lyrics allow you to impart your own characters and stories over the music.
“Maria Tambien” is a shining example of this dynamic. Speer’s blistering hook is an infectious take on surf-guitar by way of Istanbul and sounds like it could be the entrance music for some suave, jet-setting traveler with a taste for the dangerous in a 1970s heist film. “Evan Finds The Third Room” would play later in that same movie, with its lo-fi, surreal disco-ness soundtracking our hero as he meets his femme fatale at a upper-crust house party filled with thigh-high boots, lava lamps and dime-bags filled with white powder.
“August 10” is a mystifying groove that is layered gorgeously in heavenly guitar and soulful bass, acting as one of the smoothest songs Khruangbin has created. “Lady and Man” features an intriguing back-and-forth conversation between Speer’s guitar and Lee’s that goes between sunny and sinister, before bopping into a sly, cheeky funk number that sounds like Roy Ayers and Funkadelic collaborated on a lounge album.
With “Con Todo El Mundo,” Khruangbin continues on the musical adventure it started on “The Universe Smiles Upon You” and take it to new and different heights. Like their songs, Khruangbin’s players have found a pocket they like with their music and it seems they are going to settle into that groove and see where it can take them. All we have to do is put our seats back, look out the window and enjoy the view from up in the clouds, high above the world.
ABOUT Garrett Bethmann
Garrett Bethmann is a graduate of University of Mary Washington with a degree in English. An eight-year resident of Lake Tahoe, he now lives in Denver, Colorado.