Khruangbin – A LA SALA (2024)

Khruangbin - A LA SALA (2024)
Artist: Khruangbin
Album: A LA SALA
Genre: Funk, Psychedelic Rock, Neo-Psychedelia
Label: Dead Oceans
Year Of Release: 2024
Quality: FLAC (tracks)

Tracklist:
01. Fifteen Fifty-Three (04:08)
02. May Ninth (03:12)
03. Ada Jean (03:19)
04. Farolim de Felgueiras (02:01)
05. Pon Pón (02:58)
06. Todavía Viva (04:24)
07. Juegos y Nubes (02:04)
08. Hold Me Up (Thank You) (03:49)
09. Caja de la Sala (01:49)
10. Three From Two (03:35)
11. A Love International (04:15)
12. Les Petits Gris (04:02)

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Given the frequency they operate on, Khruangbin have become a surprisingly controversial prospect. The idea of a band like theirs can either enthral, or rub people up the wrong way. While NME awarded their third album ‘Mordechai’ the five-star treatment in 2020, others called it style over substance, the band’s louche, sometimes dense sound merely background music or merely just a ‘mood’ rather than something more substantial.

‘A La Sala’ is a record unlikely to coax anyone to abandon the opinions they’ve become entrenched in: this is a back-to-basics record that chimes with the band’s spritely debut ‘The Universe Smiles Upon You’ (2015). It’s not a surprising move, either. Between the aforementioned ‘Mordechai’, which pivoted towards a more radio-friendly pop sound, the band collaborated on two EPs with Texas crooner Leon Bridges; most recently, in 2022, Malian musician Vieux Farka Touré worked on a covers album with the trio and repurposed the work his late father Ali. The Houston-formed group’s live repertoire continues to grow and become heavier and funkier, as last year’s superb ‘Live at Sydney Opera Hall’ demonstrated.

To cover new territory, it helps to be grounded too, and there’s a healthy foundation on ‘A La Sala’. Each song is appropriately seasoned with dubby beats, field recordings, hooky guitar riffs and basslines, all distinct enough to pique your attention but never dominating space. The run from ‘Pon Pón’, ‘Todavía Viva’ and ‘Juegos y Nubes’ are led by Mark Speer’s nifty guitar playing; Laura Lee’s vocals and harmonies provide a something of an anchor on ‘Hold Me Up (Thank You)’; Donald ‘DJ’ Johnson’s drumming never peaks or flails, such is the design of soundscape he operates in. It’s a band in perfect sync once again.

The only downside to ‘A La Sala’ – which translates as ‘To The Room’ – is that sometimes these disparate ingredients occasionally feel bitty, as if stitched together to show off their playing as opposed to a set of songs with direction. It’s most evident on ‘Three From Two’ which repeats Speer’s riff with little motivation, and made only more noticeable by the song that follows, ‘A Love International’, a banger that builds with the groove to a sparkling crescendo.

That said, nothing on ‘A La Sala’ feels phoned-in or anonymous. Khruangbin occupy a unique lane that satisfies obsessive crate-diggers and casual festival-goers alike, as two huge shows at Coachella later this month will prove. Theirs is a discography which only appears to be flourishing with more vivid colours and textures.
By Thomas Smith

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