Written by Jaime Flores Suarez
I’ve wanted to listen to Khruangbin for a while now. I was first captivated by their music at a record shop in Avenida México near Avenida Chapultepec, which is one of the few in Guadalajara that receives the Record Store Day selection. On a sunny Saturday morning, I decided to go visit the shop to get Chicano Batman’s reissue of Black Lipstick (2015) pressed on blue vinyl and Jeff Tweedy’s WARMER (2019). I took my, at the time, six-year-old cousin with me which was very fun; a young human always enjoys a small trip anywhere. As I finished checking the bins and getting ready to pay, an album cover caught my eye. It was a color filled image of the night sky over a mountain chain. The shooting star on the top made me think of the album as a beautiful journey without even listening to it. Fast forward a couple of months and I discovered that the cover belonged to Khruangbin’s debut album: The Universe Smiles Upon You (2015).
I never listened to it, I left it behind saying that I wanted to be in a certain mood to experience the album in the right way. The truth is: I never made time for it. The cover was beautiful, but I wasn’t really interested in the contents past it. Now, I finally know who the band behind it is; what it sounds like, what their story is, their mission as musicians, and their inspiration.
I listened to Mordechai (2020) without any background knowledge. I did not know what their name meant, where they’re from, or the member’s names. I was making quesadillas while “First Class” played through my phone’s speakers. It felt like an invitation to take a trip with the band. As cheesy as it sounds, I immediately wanted to hop in my car and drive with no destination. The smooth front-line bass and the echoey phrases felt like the soundtrack for a long road trip which remained true when the nostalgic “Time (You and I)” started playing. The song feels like it has travelled through time, it’s one that could have easily been spun in David Mancuso’s apartment or, at Nicky Siano’s The Gallery. It’s exciting, lively, romantic and wise, but there’s also youth and stupidity in its corners. Just like the adolescent that decides to run away with its partner, the song reminds you of all the things you could have done and the ones you still have a chance to enjoy.
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I interrupted the album as I finished my cheese filled tortilla, went upstairs and started working on a project that had been, sadly, erased from existence. There had been a storm the night before that caused the power to go out. After finishing the project, I hopped on my car and started driving. It was my opportunity to have Khruangbin soundtrack an ordinary trip. With a sun-kissed sky that turned white clouds into a mixture of orange, pink and purple hues, I resumed the album. “Connaissais de Face” and “Pelota” drew a smile on my face. The first one felt like a film noir. Though its psychedelic guitar riff and tribalistic percussion suggest modernity, the dialogue held above it gave it an elegant aura that helped me picture Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman sharing a drink in Casablanca. “Pelota” hits very close to home. I always enjoy listening to people sing in Spanish when it’s not their first language. The mixture between flamenco claps, the batucada percussions and quick electric guitar blend perfectly. It feels like a Latin American song decided to tour along with a jam band.
I finished the album on my way back home, and have revisited all week ever since. Mordechai is a beautiful companion for any kind of trip one decides to take. It has songs that leave you with a sense of tranquility, some that travel through your ears unnoticed and others that trigger an interesting chain of thoughts if one decides to analyze past its first impression. It pushed me to visit the band’s past work and appreciate the way they incorporate worldly sounds into psychedelia. If you’re sitting down doing nothing, thinking of going for a walk, cooking, or maybe having a nice chat while listening to this album, you’re bound for a nice time.