WHO IS KHRUANGBIN?
Miles from the nearest town of Burton, Texas, from within the lone structure situated on a wide open landscape under endless sky, emerges traces of sounds whose roots lie in cultures lightyears away from small-town America – Thai funk, acid jazz, Ibiza house music, British mod pop, French “ye-ye” singers and vintage soul. This is the music of Khruangbin, the Houston-based trio of musicians who improvise and record all their music within this barn, their “spiritual home,” in the middle of nowhere.
Khruangbin formed in 2013 after releasing their first recorded song, “A Calf Born in Winter” on the Late Night Tales compilation album. They were subsequently signed by independent UK record label Night Time Stories. The ambient surf-soul group has since released an original EP called The Infamous Bill and a compilation of covers called The History of Flight, as well as a full album, The Universe Smiles Upon You, and are currently on an international tour performing alongside the tropicalia/soul quartet Chicano Batman.
WHAT DO THEY SOUND LIKE?
The music of Khruangbin, whose name loosely translates as “airplane” in Thai, is all about ambience, striving for a sound that is global and timeless. The band members share an enthusiasm for rare cassette recordings of ’60s Thai funk, and for the cult blog Monrakplengthai that collects and shares digital recordings of these cassettes. Like their musical inspiration, the “shadow music” artists of 1960s Thailand who adopted psychedelic rock with their own national style and traditional instruments, Khruangbin cannibalizes genres and folk sounds from across the globe to create their universal style.
Their music is instrumental, with the exception of the track, “White Gloves” on their LP, and often textured with sound recordings gathered by guitarist Mark Speer during his travels. These recordings form a “sound bed,” in the words of bassist Laura Leer, resulting in a hypnotic aura, like a wind passing over a prairie or the humming of a neon light. The clean and sparing chords of the guitar are laid on top of a drifting percussion and a powerful baseline, a sea of sound that is sometimes groovy, often easygoing, always deeply atmospheric.
Lee recounts during an interview with Ransom Notes:
I think that Texas has most definitely influenced our sound. Texas is huge. And we started Khruangbin in a barn in the “middle of nowhere”, and I think that aspect of Texas – the spaciousness, the big sky, the air – is definitely in our sound.
Their sound has not evolved much since the release of their first single, although the lightheartedness of their early work in “A Calf Born in Winter” and The Infamous Bill has given way to a wider range of emotions in The Universe Smiles Upon You. Below I’ve included a playlist with some of their tunes and a few of their musical inspirations scattered throughout.
This is a really great mixtape the band members made for i-D’s weekly soundcloud “wind-down session”
WHO’S IN THE BAND?
Laura Lee – bassist
Mark Speer – guitarist
Donald Johnson – percussion
WHAT ARE THEY LIKE LIVE?
New Yorker writer Matthew Trammell describes the experience of watching Khruangbin perform live:
As the band played between two rubber tree ferns, the artists Curtis Godino and Chaz Lord produced swirling pastel lava patterns that engulfed Rough Trade’s stage, using light-manipulation techniques from the sixties-era visual artists Joshua White and Mark Boyle. A few fans craned their necks back up to the balcony, where the artists were hunched over an overhead projector, painting the images live.
The Thalia Hall performance most likely will not have live artists painting images to the music, but it is a guaranteed good time at the very least. The description is in reference to this show at The Rough Trade, Brooklyn.
Here is a 2011 performance of “The Number Three” in Houston, the hometown of all three members.
Watch out for Laura Lee’s colorful outfits and laid-back dance moves. And for kicks, here is a short film by the members, inspired by the films of Quentin Tarantino.
Khruangbin is performing at Thalia Hall on September 30th at 8:00 PM, alongside Chicano Batman. Purchase tickets here.
♥ Written by Jessica Breznick ♥