Khruangbin: A LA SALA [Album Review]

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Dead Oceans [2024]

Album Overview: A LA SALA is the fourth studio album by Houston’s Khruangbin, a band consisting of bassist Laura Lee Ochoa, drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson, Jr., and guitarist Mark “Marko” Speer. The album represents a return to their roots, both emotionally and sonically, aiming to recapture the essence of their early days as a band. Recorded with minimal overdubs and only in the company of their longtime engineer Steve Christensen, it reflects a desire to scale down in order to scale up creatively for the future. This album marks a pivotal moment in Khruangbin’s career, following a decade of musical exploration and setting the stage for larger performances and creative endeavors. This album is completely chill but goes down completely smooth as each track is delicate, focused and delivered with purpose.

Musical Style: Khruangbin’s musical style has unique blends of influences, including psychedelic rock, funk, soul, and various global sounds. Their music features intricate guitar melodies, minimalist basslines, and tight drum grooves, creating a mesmerizing and atmospheric sonic landscape. A LA SALA takes a very minimalist approach that makes its 40 minutes float.

Evolution of Sound: While Khruangbin’s earlier albums showcased their experimentation with diverse musical styles and influences as they expanding with each record, A LA SALA represents a refinement and distillation of their signature sound. The album retains their characteristic elements but focuses more on intimate intercontinental party vibes, incorporating field recordings and ambient spaces to create a deeper, more immersive listening experience. It is a perfect party backdrop album that never takes over the speakers but has everyone asking what artist is playing.

Artists with Similar Fire: Khruangbin’s sound is relatively unique, but here they share similarities with artists like Kikagaku Moyo, Surprise Chef, Karate Boogaloo and Misha Panfilov. These artists are more instrumental while blending psychedelic and indie rock with elements of funk and soul, creating a similar atmospheric and groove-oriented aesthetic.

Pivotal Tracks: “A Love International” is a track that is a good representation of the record with its intimate intercontinental party vibes. “Pon Pón” reflects the band’s exploration of West African discotheque sounds while maintaining a deep groove. “Hold Me Up (Thank You)” showcases the band’s familial sweetness with spare lyrics and a sturdy funk shuffle. “Todavía Viva” is one of the more vocal tracks on the record as it features noir-soul elements alongside G-funk fantasias, highlighting the band’s musical versatility. “Juegos y Nubes” -demonstrates Khruangbin’s Houston-born ability to mix cultures, creating a communal grooving mood.

Lyrical Strength: While Khruangbin is primarily an instrumental band, their lyrical strength lies in their ability to convey emotions and atmospheres through their music. Sparse lyrics, when present, evoke a sense of intimacy and nostalgia, complementing the instrumental arrangements and adding depth to the listening experience.

Mordechai (2020) / Texas Sun (2020)

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Thomas Wilde

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