Khruangbin's audio spells make 'Austin City Limits' debut before sold-out Stubb's run
In their debut “Austin City Limits” taping on Monday, Khruangbin led listeners on a cinematic journey through sound defined by expansive vision and intuitive execution.
Hailing from Houston, the group’s sound is emblematic of the most diverse city in the country. They draw from a broad palette of influences, blending everything from psychedelic funk and Latin jazz to Asian tonal motifs and hip-hop beats into intoxicating grooves that induce an easy head nod and a laid-back vibe.
They kicked off their set with a run of three tracks from their 2014 debut EP, “The Infamous Bill,” a release marked by the trio’s early obsession with ‘60s funk from Thailand. Black wigs flowing from the breeze of an unseen windmaker, guitarist Mark Speer and bassist Laura Lee strolled across the stage trading point and counterpoint melody lines, engaged in a musical conversation. The global flavor of the grooves didn’t detract from a distinctly Texan feel. This is dusty road trip music that shimmers like heat on a distant horizon.
All three instrumentalists played with masterful expression; Speer coaxed a spectrum of color out of ambling guitar loops laid over Lee’s bubbling bass lines and anchored by drummer Donald Ray “DJ” Johnson’s crisp patterns.
Moving forward through their discography, they layered vocals into the mix on “People Everywhere” and “White Gloves.” While lyricism is a centerpiece of most popular modern music, for Khruangbin, the voice becomes another sonic texture. Abstract poetry is just another aspect of the shared dreamscape they lead the audience through.
Using repetitive patterns, they built a framework to carry the emotional weight of sprawling songs. Tightly locked into each other’s vibe, they wove audio spells that entranced the limited capacity audience.
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One of the most striking things about Khruangbin is how incredibly successful they’ve become playing music that defies all commercial conventions. Boosted in part by a relationship with Trey Anastasio and Phish, they’ve become new standard bearers for jam bands. Their music is thoughtful and exquisitely detailed, devoid of the mindless noodling detractors attribute to the genre. Following their “ACL” performance, the band begins a run of four sold out Stubb’s shows on Wednesday.
They closed out their “ACL” set with a run of songs from the excellent 2020 release “Mordechai.” The Spanish-language track “Pelota” was a buoyant border excursion which segued into the languid grooves of “Shida.”
They took the set out with the soaring anthem “So We Won’t Forget,” which is about as close as Khruangbin comes to a hooky groove. It was a gorgeous coda to an entrancing evening, destined to linger in the audience’s memory long after the reverb faded away.
More 'Austin City Limits'
Texas soul singer Leon Bridges will tape an episode of the television series on Sept. 14, which will be livestreamed at 8 p.m. Go to acltv.com.