Khruangbin looks to expand your musical palette with this smooth, stark album.
Texan trio Khruangbin, consisting of bass player Laura Lee, guitarist Mark Spear, and drummer Donald Johnson, deliver an imaginative sophomore effort with Con Todo El Mundo.
After their Southeast Asian inspired The Universe Smiles Upon You, the group found inspiration for in relatively niche Middle Eastern funk and soul stylings.
The first four tracks of the album, beginning with “Cómo Me Quieres,” take on an overtly expressive tone. Each of these songs, which include “Lady and Man,” “August 10,” and “Maria Tambien” (released as a single last year) are remarkably sensual, the textured nature resonates on your skin.
The clear punctuated percussion has an almost hypnotic effect on you, seeming to circle around you, tapping you every once in a while to remind you it’s there.
These songs have a conversational nature to them, nowhere more than in “Maria Tambien.”
The instruments seem to quip with each other. At first the guitar does most of the chorus-work over the bass and drums. Then the bass and percussion handle the bridge and give way to a chorus both the guitar and bass sing along to.
The songs are always seemingly at play, not looking to coalesce just yet, preferring instead to abide their time and allow the talented musicians to do their thing. Everything seems to be leading towards the steady build-up of “August 10,” with its bossanova chorus, that finally gives way to the more contained, introspective back-half of the album.
In “Cómo Te Quiero” there’s a clear shift towards a moodier, ambient sound. The instruments seem to have finally found their sense of harmony among each other and all relax into a melancholy beach tune. There’s a more overt sense of design to this sound, resulting in a song that inspires more than it moves.
“Shades of Man” carries on the beachy vibe of “Cómo Te Quiero” with its repetitive riffs and distant hums. It’s one of the slower songs on an album that really appreciates taking its time, but this is made up for by the pleasant surprise of “Evan Finds the Third Room.”
The disco-funk attitude of “Evan…” is delightful. The repeated “yes” adds complexity to Johnson’s layered percussion, and the sparse lyricism is absurd and catchy.
This song pulls off an interesting hat trick in that its instrumentation and production are much more at the forefront than most of the songs on the album, but the song itself feels like a natural, ambient soundscape.
“Evan Finds the Third Room” synthesizes the textural dance vibe of the first four songs with the introspective, imaginative nature of the back half of the album, and is probably my favorite song in Con Todo el Mundo for it.
The run after “Evan Finds the Third Room” takes the energy brought into the album by that song and follows through with it. “A Hymn,” “Rules,” and “Friday Morning” all blend seamlessly into each other, each seeming to flesh out more and more the ideas Khruangbin’s putting into their music.
The music fluctuates between melancholy, confidence, wariness, and enchantment in a natural, honest fashion.
Con Todo El Mundo pulls off an amazing feat, it’s an album with an overtly non-pop agenda, expanding the musical taste and knowledge of its listeners, that feels like it could have a decent amount of pop appeal.
It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you’re looking to have your musical curiosity engaged, and your taste expanded, I can’t think of many better places to start.
Listen to Con Todo El Mundo and The Universe Smiles Upon You below on Spotify: