The Texan trio, Khruangbin, comprised of bassist Laura Lee, guitarist Mark Speer and Donald “DJ” Johnson on drums, return following their luscious 2016 debut, The Universe Smiles Upon You. With a sound that is again rooted in soul, gospel, psychedelia and dub, Con Todo El Mundo takes what the debut album presented and spans it across new landscapes – it’s the sound of crate-diggers and music obsessives at their finest. Whereas the debut turned to Thai cassettes for much of its influence, the sophomore effort looks closer at the Mediterranean and Middle East, in particular Iran, for its inspiration.
Part dedicated to Lee’s Mexican-American grandfather, [“My grandpa would always ask me ‘Có mo me quieres?’ (how much do you love me?) And he’d only ever accept one response: ‘Con todo el mundo’ (with all the world)”] Con Todo El Mundo finds a similar birthplace in the vast landscapes of Texas with dreamy, largely instrumental textures littering the album. From the scintillating guitar of ‘Maria También’ through to the resounding groove of ‘Lady and Man’, the latter of which also locates one of the album’s rarer lyrical dashes – a tongue-in-cheek mocking the career move of Lee: “Could have been a lawyer / Could have gone to college / You’re too reckless”.
What allows Khruangbin to forge something so enticing and interesting is how their instrumentation fuses together to form something that is arguably greater than their individual parts. It’s in the groove of the album, in the deep funk of ‘August 10’ and how Lee ties her rich understanding of low-end theory around DJ’s mastering of the backbeat, and it’s noticeable in the r’n’b and soul of ‘Evan Finds the Third Room’: A compelling P-Funk drive that finds as much in Asian instrumentation as it does in Chicago’s 70s soul revival. There are glimmers of club and dance rhythms, cut alongside Gilles Peterson’s affiliation for international sounds. Testament to this fact though, Khruangbin are true globetrotters, barely stopping for a breath since the release of The Universe Smiles Upon You.
Masters at finding tenderness and serenity between their more chaotic funk moments, the likes of ‘A Hymn’ provide the perfect moments of respite on the album. It’s compelling to see how the band colours vibrant landscapes with their music, knowing exactly when to hold off over-playing and when to delve into all out celebrations. Every moment of sound on tracks such as ‘Rules’ feels purposeful, feels intentional and ultimately adds in a key characteristic of Con Todo El Mundo. Instrumental music, unlike lyrical music, needs to build its own emotion – words can’t express instrumentation, therefore, every flicker of guitar, every ricochet of the snare and thump of the bass needs to fill where words leave a void. Khruangbin are utterly spectacular at this.
Con Todo El Mundo is the sound of three disparate and distinct musicians coming together to paint a glittering backdrop. This is art in its finest and most luscious form – tying elastic melodies around the vibrant harmonies and soundscapes. Soulful, silky and full of funk; a real must for those in need of winding down.