Khruangbin - A LA SALA (Dead Oceans and Night Time Stories, 2024); Room with a Vibe

Photo courtesy of the artists

It's already shaping up to be a banner week, what with the release of a new Mark Knopfler album, and I was totally not prepared for a new collaboration between Texas and Spooner Oldham, recorded in the classic Muscle Shoals studios. Moreover, it features mostly the best tunes from the career of the Scottish band reimagined in stripped down versions with Sharleen Spiteri's soulful voice paired with Oldham's pianos. But, this is about that, it's about something that dropped last week. It's an album by Khruangbin called A La Sala. For those of you keeping track, that's pronounced "krung-bin". 

Khruangbin has made numerous albums and EPs, they've sold out venues across the country including Red Rocks and Radio City Music Hall. With all that, and considering I've been on a search for new music since I don't know when, it kind of freaks me out that I've never crossed paths with Khruangbin until now when my daughter sent me this excellent NY Times article by Ryan Bradley (fans of audio may wish to know that this article has a player feature that will read to you). 

The band Khruangbin are three musicians from Houston, Texas featuring Laura Lee Ochoa on bass, Donald "D.J." Johnson on drums and Mark "Marko" Speer on guitar. On the surface the instrumentation of guitar, bass and drums could not be more basic, but let me assure you that Khruangbin sounds like no power trio that you can think of, much less Cream. 

Trying to think of good reference points for Khruangbin, I come up empty. I want to say Dennis Coffey who used to record his guitar excursions in the clubs around Detroit when Motown ruled that city. But no, that's not quite it. I also want to mention the great jams that Isaac Hayes used to record in the Shaft era for Stax, but that's not quite it either. Looking at something more recent, just before the pandemic I saw a group called The Marias in a small club that was packed with adoring fans. Although The Marias make very different music than Khruangbin, the thought occurs that they may be going for a similar vibe. 

The bottom line for me is that after many decades of listening to music, I can say that I've listened to many thousands of bands, thousands of albums and thousands of singles and I can't think of a direct comparison to Khruangbin, and that underlines their amazing originality. 

I have a friend who likes nothing so much as a great late-night album. There are no hard and fast rules for this, no way to quantify it. It's just one of those things you know when you hear it. Dave could tell you that it doesn't hurt if it's slow paced, deliberate, melodic and intense; call it a vibe. I think Dave might like A La Sala by Khruangbin. I can say without reservation that it does sound good first thing is the morning, and I dare say that it would work at any time of day or night. The only thing left to do is to give it a spin.  

Watch “Hold Me Up (Thank You)”


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