sat 19/10/2019

Khruangbin, SWX, Bristol review - stoned stew of global sounds hits the mark | reviews, news & interviews

Khruangbin, SWX, Bristol review - stoned stew of global sounds hits the mark

Khruangbin, SWX, Bristol review - stoned stew of global sounds hits the mark

Slick, tight and stylish, Texan trio's post-psychedelic sound enchants with a rare space age cool

Drummer Donald Johnson, bassist-vocalist Laura Lee and guitarist Mark Speer of Khruangbin

Texan trio Khruangbin are a rare concoction, psychedelic rockers, for sure, but seamed with all manner of global influences, notably Thai pop but also running the gamut from Latin sounds to Middle Eastern scaling. Hitting the UK in support of their second album, Con Todo El Mundo, they initially presented an aloof front, which was compromised briefly by a minor technical glitch.

This didn’t distract from the band’s striking retro-future aesthetic, especially bassist-singer Laura Lee, who wore a chic white leotard and red thigh-high boots like a supersonic empress from a kitsch old sci-fi film. The matching long black fringes of the two guitarists were also notably distinctive. The band’s overall look is glossy, yet not impersonal; guitarist Mark Speer wore a grey suit with white cowboy boots, undoubtedly a homage to his and the band’s Texan roots. A spirited crowd member shouted, “I love your shoes, man!”

It was interesting how, despite being a mostly instrumental band, the audience still sang along to the riffs. Khruangbin’s music manages to be very catchy without ever over-egging things. Songs such as “August Twelve” seemed to lull the audience into a low hum of accompaniment, the syncopation making the melodies even more charming and unique. “White Gloves”, their most popular track, and one of the few with lyrics, was serene and beautiful. I was struck by the playfulness of the band’s stage presence, adding a sense of flair with occasional teasing hip movements, or summoning each other across the stage with music.

“Evan Finds the Third Room”, from the new album, offered an unusual atmosphere, as the band play with lyrical form to create a captivating call-and-response between the two “not-vocalist” vocalists, bringing a gospel influence to light. There was a spoken word section which was particularly striking and funky. Laura Lee seemed a cold presence at first, but eventually her cold sheen dwindled, and she was smiling with the crowd. Apparently their first gig was in Bristol three years ago, when they released their first album, The Universe Smiles Upon You. Mark Speer toasted the crowd with a beer and agreed, “and it certainly does, Bristol”.

Khruangbin are born from all sorts of strange underground influences and offer a refreshing, unlaboured step out of the ordinary. Their effortless yet glossy stage presence seems likely to mean good things for the band’s future. They have already seen a dramatic rise in popularity over the past few months. Lurking beyond any definitive genre, they’re a tight instrumental unit, with memorable melodies, and the occasional glimmer of fearless and forward-thinking funk that, by the end of the night, left this capacity crowd sated.

Overleaf: watch 54 minute Khruangbin Boiler Room live set

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