wed 22/05/2024

Album: Khruangbin - A LA SALA | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Khruangbin - A LA SALA

Album: Khruangbin - A LA SALA

Same old same old, and all the better for it

This is a reviewer’s nightmare: it’s literally just Khruangbin doing what Khruangbin do. As ever, the Texan trio are rolling out laid-back psychedelic spaghetti western Tex-Mex country-soul-funk groove after laid-back psychedelic spaghetti western Tex-Mex country-soul-funk groove, all drenched in the usual hazy reverb that practically demand you start drawing for adjectives like “sun-bleached” and talk about big skies and desert landscapes.

The instrumentation is, as ever, all super-trad too. Bass, drums, guitar and just tiny wisps of Hammond organ and vocal are recorded in lovingly analogue style. There’s nothing new here at all. 

Well, almost nothing. There is an increased use of ambience: the first track “Ninteen Fifty-Three” starts with distant cars and crickets, and throughout there’s disappearing sirens, far-away laughter and conversations, and just general hums of atmosphere that you can’t quite place but somehow know are from a very specific place. And somehow that tells you about the magic of Khruangbin. Just as recorded ambience even at micro volume contains impossible volumes of information about the place and time it’s from – languages, dialects, animal populations, the types of engines in cars and planes – to someone with the ears and knowledge to detect it.

Everything Khruangbin do presents as vague, played with a kind of natural cool that could come over as detachement. Blurring together decades and styles from a mythic past, they make the kind of generic background music that has made them so overwhelmingly successful and ubiquitous in tasteful cafes and suchlike. But the more you listen to it the more you realise that like the ambience in the background it’s rooted in time and space, in the physicality of the musicians playing the sounds, and in the lines of connection and influence that brought them to this precise moment.  

If you didn’t grasp this, it would almost be tempting to say that AI could make Khruangbin tunes if you fed it with enough Meters, Stax, Muscle Shoals, Isley Brothers, David Lynch and Ennio Morricone soundtracks, but the thing is it never could. Never mind that there are Thai and Turkish psychedelia and all kinds of other influences in there besides the better known ones – the point is that no automated system is ever going to have the ability to not just triangulate between all those influences and find the highest common factors in them, but translate that to vibrations that evoke musicians so used to playing with one another in a room. That’s not to be all real music bore authentocrat about it, there’s nothing wrong with artifice – but in doing the same thing over and over, Khruangbin perfectly demonstrate just how difficult that is to do right.

@joemuggs

Listen to "May Ninth":

It would almost be tempting to say that AI could make Khruangbin tunes if you fed it with enough source material

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters