Friday, 7 June 2019

Khruangbin ‎– Con Todo El Mundo (2018)

Style: Funk, Psychedelic
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Night Time Stories, Beat Records, Dead Oceans

01. Como Me Quieres
02. Lady and Man
03. Maria También
04. August 10
05. Como Te Quiero
06. Shades of Man
07. Evan Finds the Third Room
08. A Hymn
09. Rules
10.    Friday Morning

Drums – Donald Johnson, Jr.
Guitar, Vocals, Mellotron, Percussion, Producer – Mark Speer
Pedal Steel Guitar – Will Van Horn
Percussion – Charlie Perez
Vibraphone – Chase Jordan
Bass, Vocals, Handclaps, Producer – Laura Lee
Producer – Steve Christensen
Written-By, Arranged By – Khruangbin

Khruangbin craft atmosphere music that never fades into the background, like some endless curl of smoke that keeps pluming upward. Sprinkled with snippets of spoken word, faint vocal melodies, and ranging and impeccably performed guitar solos, the whole of their second record, Con Todo El Mundo is, in effect, a long and pleasant head nod that seems to hang between continents and eras. The group—whose name is a transliteration of the Thai word for “airplane”—elicits the same eclectic enjoyment of any number of artists that came of age around the turn of the century, from the laid-back trip-hop feel of Kruder & Dorfmeister to dub-jammy Thievery Corporation: Ethereal instrumental music that might be described as “world” as shorthand for its range of melody, rhythm, and overall vibe. But the Houston-based instrumental trio makes music that’s a little more dusty, frayed around the edges, and personal. 
Though clearly informed by psychedelic rock, the primary influence that fueled their 2015 debut, The Universe Smiles Upon You, was Thai funk, music that bassist Laura Lee and guitarist Mark Speer found by scouring the Thai music blog, Monrakplengthai. Speer was in a gospel band with hip-hop producer and drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson, who became the third member, adding the more influences to the blend, and plenty of breakbeats. But Con Todo El Mundo broadens the group’s sound, maintaining the funk but also adding bits and pieces of Caribbean, Indian, and Middle Eastern music. Iran is the obvious touchstone in “Maria También,” whose video directly addresses women’s rights in that country. Throw in a few retro surf riffs and whispered vocal lines and you’ve got an aesthetic that feels at home at any beach or desert in the world. 
From the laidback first few seconds of guitar, bass, and organ that begins “Cómo Me Quieres” (“How do you love me?” )—the question answered by the album’s title Con Todo El Mundo (“With all the world”)—it’s clear that this music might be the perfect accompaniment to just about any somewhat passive activity. Cooking? Studying? Walking? Riding the bus? Khruangbin have your back. Need to speed it up a little? Skip to the funky, zouk-styled bounce of “Evan Finds the Third Room.” Relaxing around the house on a Sunday afternoon? Try the loping slowness of “A Hymn.” Every track is profoundly pleasant and, at times, even danceable, in a crunchy kind of way.

Perhaps this is music for the Spotify era; a flowchart of sounds spawned from a range of music connected by the wonders of algorithmic technology. Describing how musical influence can be found anywhere, drummer Johnson describes Shazaming tunes in his local pho restaurant, and the band also offers a curated Spotify playlists for listeners. Each one contains music that influenced the band while recording and allows the playlist to be tailored to the length of an airplane journey and tweaked according to the mood. It may read like a slight to say that Con Todo El Mundo sounds like the result of an algorithm, but it’s an algorithm that reflects the way music is now consumed. Every week listeners “discover” new rhythms catered to an activity or previous selections. But it also allows, maybe, just maybe, for what was once called “world music” to slide into these shuffled, technologically selected playlists. Khruangbin’s takes this new mode of listening and injects its own singular and developing personality into the playlisting of modern music. 
Erin MacLeod / Pitchfork

Space Invadas ‎– Wild World (2018)

Style: Contemporary R&B, Hip Hop, Neo Soul, Soul
Format: Vinyl
Label:  Invada Records

01.   Welcome
02.   Late Night
03.   Dont Ever Look Back
04.   Wild World)
05.   Satellite
06.   Are You Afraid
07.   Love And Hope
08.   Now That I Know
09.   Woman In Charge
10.   Minds Eye
11.   Say Something
12.   I Just Want To
13.   Imaginist

Mastered By – DJ Danielsan

Sometimes you don't realise how much you miss someone til you hear them again. 
Eight years on from their acclaimed debut Soul-Fi, Katalyst and Steve Spacek return with Wild World, the second instalment of electro soul gems for Space Invadas. And listening to it makes us wonder how we lasted so long without new music from this perfect collaboration. 
Katalyst's expertly-selected crate-digging productions and Spacek's flawless soul vocals are such a perfect combination, each complementing one another so perfectly that they make each other sound better. 
While these two creative forces are the crux of what makes this record such a dynamic soulful punch, a few expertly selected guests bring a fresh perspective to some of the productions. 
Natalie Slade is a not-so-secret weapon that elevates every production she sings on (see: Yum Yum, Plutonic Lab's latest cuts). So it stands to reason that her appearances on opener ‘Welcome' and the beautifully brassy ‘Woman In Charge' are among the album's many highlights. 
Guilty Simpson's verse on the funk gem ‘Late Night' is both smooth and powerful, as is Remi's contribution to ‘Wild World' – neither of them transform their respective tracks into hip hop songs, they just add a fresh element to keep things interesting. 
While the record is very much steeped in late-70s funk and soul, there are a few sidesteps that keep the audience guessing. There's the exotic South American flourish of ‘Don't Ever Look Back', the synth-heavy ‘Satellite' has a distinctly electro vibe, and it all wraps up with the spacey, psych-soul of ‘I Just Want To' that shows the duo can get a little weird when they need to.

It's tough to pick highlights when a record has no low points, no moments lacking in inspiration. But special credit must go to ‘Now That I Know' – one of the best soul tracks of the year and a jam that is every bit as good as the best hip hop tinged soul (think Anderson.Paak et al) being made anywhere. 
Katalyst and Spacek's are one of the most formidable tandem acts in Australian music. Everything on Wild World is executed with great care and class, and it's a soul record that can, and should, stand up alongside the giants of modern hip hop and soul worldwide. 
Dan Condon / ABC