Khruangbin Put Their Best Foot Forward on ‘Mordechai’

Chris Daly takes a quick look at an album he feels is the Texas psych trio's best work yet.
By    August 7, 2020

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Chris Daly looks forward to spending the rest of his summer tanning in the Texas sun.

As I’m listening to Mordechai, the latest, torrid affair from Texas slow burners, Khuruangbin, for the umpteenth time, I keep finding myself thinking of Alabama’s soliloquy at the end of True Romance.  “…three words went through my mind endlessly, repeating themselves, like a broken record.  You’re so cool.  You’re so cool.  You’re so cool.” On their third full-length, the band coalesces all they’ve learned thus far into what arguably is their finest record to date at best, a damn fine entry into the canon at worst.

To address the big change out of the gate, this is the one where bassist Laura Lee, guitarist Mark Speer and drummer DJ Johnson go from being a predominantly instrumental act to including vocals on most of the tracks. The overall effect is almost like adding another instrument, as the vocals work more to enhance the mood than to change it dramatically. Khruangbin still works by doing what they do best. By never once demanding attention with their laid back swagger, they instead command it immediately just by being their effortless selves.

“First Class” starts the listener on a roughly 45 minute journey down a low key, winding river of laid back vibes punctuated with occasional, energetic outbursts. “Time (You and I)” adds some disco funk to the on-going mantra, “That’s right/if we had more time/we could live forever/Just You and I/We could be together.” “Connaissais De Face” is a spoken word dialogue between Lee and Speer, capably demonstrating the band’s uncanny ability to mix and merge sounds into their own, here combining Middle Eastern grooves with Serge Gainsbourg flair (making it probably my personal favorite on the album). “Father Bird, Mother Bird” is a more plaintive piece, showcasing some of Speer’s best guitar work on display on Mordechai.

“Pelota” brings with it some Latin spice, Lee providing Spanish vocals and handclaps to give it that extra sizzle. “One to Remember” harkens back to Hasta El Cielo, wearing its Dub badge like the sign of honor it is. “Dearest Alfred” stakes its flag in the hazy, dreamlike qualities so prevalent on The Universe Smiles Upon You, but this doesn’t feel like a throwback nearly as much as a continuation. “Shida” is the perfect closer, the trio locked in an ever altering jam that jumps all over the fretboard, but never once loses its direction.

The combined effect? It’s so cool. It’s so cool. It’s so cool.

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