After bouncing around for years, psychedelic-funk extraordinaires Khruangbin are ready to settle down on their funky, groovy, and superb third album, ‘Mordechai’.
Between the release of their 2015 debut album, The Universe Smiles Upon You, to the long tour that followed their breakthrough sophomore LP, 2018’s Con Todo El Mundo, Khruangbin have been constantly moving. For nearly four years, the experimental, psychedelic-funk extraordinaires toured non-stop, hitting every part of the globe except the two poles. Their relentless efforts contributed to a surge in popularity with fans and within the music community. Earlier this year, the trio collaborated with Leon Bridges on the super-cool, desert psychedelic EP, Texas Sun. The record felt like a continuous road trip, where the car’s occupants were endlessly chasing the setting sun. On their third album, Mordechai, however, the trio take to the skies.
If Texas Sun‘s mode of transport was a 1985 Mustang Convertible, Mordechai is like jet-setting on the Concorde in the ’70s. It is, in other words, a technicolor dream, filled with hypnotic grooves and trippy haziness. But instead of searching for new adventures, the album is the journey of a band seeking to settle down and recreate a sense of normalcy. Through this existential search for meaning, the largely instrumental Khruangbin, in particular bassist Laura Lee Ochoa, find their voice. In doing so, they reveal a new dimension to their craft – that of gentle storytellers.
The funk-infused opener, “First Class” commences the 43-minute escapade. The track is classic Khruangbin – sultry and icy cool with Ochoa’s bass and Mark Speer’s steely guitar creating the scintillating ambiance. While the words are few, they add to the exotic allure of flying at the front of the plane. The super funky “Time (You and I)”, meanwhile, is a strut down Main Street with our partner-in-crime. Through her intoxicating and ghostly vocals, Lee, who takes on a persona akin to James Brown and Charles Bradley, encourages listeners to live care-free and cherish every moment. Her words seem like wisdom, but they are also a reminder to herself to slow down.
Ochoa again plays the role of personal advisor on the jazz-bar appropriate “If There is No Question”. As Donald “DJ” Johnson tickles the cymbals and snare drum, Ochoa quietly hollers, “You’re wild / But you’re not crazy”. A dreaminess reigns on the psychedelic-tropical ’70s funk that is “So We Won’t Forget”. As Speer’s jangly guitar intertwines with Ochoa’s funky bass line and Johnson’s jazzy rhythms, the track feels like a cool summer breeze on a scorching summer day. Ochoa’s vocals are heavenly, and she encourages people to document every moment of their life because something great just might happen from an innocent event.
“Ooh, one to remember
Writing it down now
So we won’t forget
Ooh, never enough paper
Never enough letters
So we won’t forget”
Her words, though, are not based on her own experience but rather someone close to her heart. Her grandfather plays a central role in the album. On “Connaissais de Face“, Lee and Speer have a conversation through a setting that sounds like a ’70s soap opera. “She was very much like my grandfather“, Lee says of a woman named Lou. It is on the slow dance that is “Dearest Alfred” where Lee pays homage to her grandfather. Citing the words he wrote to his twin brother, Lee sings:
“Can you imagine my joy I received
Your wonderful letter
Your letter is the best gift”
Although much of Mordechai is based on memory and the idea of a regular life, Khruangbin do find a moment to go well outside the box on “Pelota”. Funk and neo-psychedelia are weaved into the sensual, Latin sounds of Mexico and Brazil. The band’s innovation, however, comes through in Ochoa’s Spanish story that is inspired by Japanese animé. Specifically, she tells the story about a ball (which is “pelota” in Spanish) that gets lost in a magical house and becomes a creature, possibly a demon. All this entity wants to be is “pura” or pure. She wants to be whole and no longer run from those who chase her. All she wants to be is somewhere to call home. After bouncing around for years, Khruangbin are ready to settle down and have us along with them on one of the year’s funkiest and soothing albums of the year.
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