Khruangbin Con Todo El Mundo
Background music was never meant to sound this good.
It’s thanks to the diggers of our world, the selectors, tastemakers, and bloggers of unearthed sounds, that once unheard-of global sounds are becoming more integrated into our listening habits. One such genre is the traditional Thai Molam sound, which, thanks to reissues courtesy of Finders Keepers—and the success of such acts as The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band, The Whitest Crow, and Khun Narin (bands worthy of your attention if you’re fans of Khruangbin)—is becoming a scene within itself in Western circles. One of the biggest adopters of the Thai style is Khruangbin, whose psych-rock, chill-out credentials are massive and near inescapable.
The predominately instrumental trio from Burton, Texas consisting of Laura Lee on bass, Mark Speer on guitar, and Donald “DJ” Johnson on drums, came together with a vision of playing global surf rock. Speer’s love of Thai music came about after discovering the blog Monrakplengthai (“I love Thai Music”) and going on to create a new, westernized style of Molam. The band’s name was actually taken from this, translating to “engine fly” or “aeroplane” to symbolize the international set of influences that shaped their music.
Khruangbin’s music has gently been creeping into the global airwaves for the past five years. From having the track “A Calf Born in Water” featured on Bonobo’s 2013 Late Night Tales, the band went on to release their debut LP The Universe Smiles Upon You in 2011—an album that became a ubiquitous feature in psych, soft-rock, and chill-out playlists alike. The soft, gentle guitar-based melodies found their way into many a DJ set thanks to set of remixes by Futureboogie, Maribou State, and Session Victim, along with hypnotic performances at festivals such as Magnetic Fields, Dimensions, and one of the most memorable appearances on Boiler Room. They’ve also garnered themselves as credible and well-versed tastemakers thanks to a progressive series of playlists, and regular slots on NTS.
The new album takes flight from its predecessor; sharp drums, smooth reaching guitar licks, and subtle, harmonic basslines weave like a soft sea breeze, whispering tales of exotic love and dreamlike adventures. Recorded together in their hometown of Burton, the LP begins with “Como me quieres?” (How much do you love me?) a question asked by Lee’s grandfather—to which she would answer, “Con todo el mundo” (with all the love in the world). It’s a tender, exquisite instrumental, passively paced, with gentle keys, whistles, and ambient prayer-like humming.
The laid-back “Friday Morning” is the LP’s love song and is crying out for a Dan The Automator makeover with MF Doom at some point in the near future. It takes the record’s pacing even slower, hinting at the record’s leanings on American music, as brought in by Johnson’s previous background as a choir organist.
Con Todo El Mundo takes more upbeat trajectories with the eastern-funk heavy rhythm of “Maria Tambien,” a track resplendent with breakdowns, handclaps, and hook-laden riffs, which is already getting support from Gilles Peterson, James Blake and other radio jock-types. With a more composed feel, there are incandescent Mediterranean vibes, such as the bouzouki influence in “Evan Finds the Third Room,” along with Turk-psych influence on the aforementioned (and standout single) “Maria Tambien.”
But the Molam vibe is inescapable, as Speer drives the East-Asian riffs throughout the album’s 10 tracks. Con Todo El Mundo never breaks from the bluesy-Thai spirit, resplendent with harmonious choruses, pad-like percussive undertones, and rife with riffs. The attention to artistry, love, and harmony bleeds passionately through this album, reflecting the current tone and trend for contemporary global-psychedelia (see Goat, Tame Impala etc.), while addressing positivity and balance with it’s overall, good-natured vibes.
As a whole, it doesn’t divert too much from the band’s debut offering, yet it’s ability to keep you enamoured without being loud or egregious is phenomenal. Background music was never meant to be this good. There’s no doubt it will become the soundtrack to every refined coffee house in your district, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With a European tour already selling out, this vagabond troupe of chill-out misfits are about to become the next hippest thing since The XX, without the lacklustre pedantic vocals attached.
As a record, Con Todo El Mundo won’t change the world, but it will make your day brighter. Once you’ve maxed out playing records by The Budos Band and Bonobo, then Khruangbin should be next in your selection.
01. Como Me Quieres
02. Lady And Man
03. Maria Tambien
04. August 10
05. Como Te Quiero
06. Shades Of Man
07. Evan Finds The Third Room
08. A Hymn
10. Friday Morning