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SOUNDTRACK: KHRUANGBIN-Tiny Desk Concert #743 (May 16, 2018).

The sound of the guitar that Khruangbin create is so dead on for an old sixties band that as they started this set I thought perhaps it was a sample they were opening up with.

But it was all live.  And as the camera comes on for “Maria También” we see this trio jamming this really groovy instrumental song (with whispered words from bassist Laura Lee).  The guitar melody is full of circular riffs but when it shifts to the main body, I love the way the bass and guitar play the same thing but it sounds like a fresh addition of low-end (his guitar seems to eschew the low-end entirely).  The middle of the song is a cool guitar solo with lots of hammer-ons and chords thrown in to generate a really wonderful sound–the tightness of the ending is really cool too.

So Khruangbin is a

trio from Houston, Texas heavily inspired by 1960s and ’70s funk and soul from, of all places, Thailand. That musical passion has taken them on a journey that, these days, incorporates music from Spain, Ethiopia and the Middle East. Khruangbin’s largely instrumental music is grounded in Laura Lee’s bass, with Mark Speer playing those melodic, richly reverbed guitar sounds and Donald “DJ” Johnson on drums and piano.

“August 10” is a jazzier number with lots of slow but evocative bass. The main part of the song is gentle chords with some cool riffage.  The middle slows things down with some very gentle na na na nas from all three members. Johnson’s drums are pretty simple and standard throughout–keep the beat and add some accents.  It’s that funky bass line that is so great.

Two of the three songs performed at this Tiny Desk Concert are from their 2018 album Con Todo El Mundo, which is dedicated in part to Laura Lee’s Mexican-American grandfather. He’d often ask her how much she loved him and the response that pleased him most was when she would say, “con todo el mundo,” (with all the world.)

The third track in this performance is one of the band’s first forays into vocals, from their 2015 debut album, The Universe Smiles Upon You. “White Gloves” gently pays homage to a “classy lady” who was “a fighter” and who “died in a fight.” Its open-ended lyrics could imply a battle that was violent or an illness. It isn’t clear.

“White Gloves” is more mellow and less jamming.  I am fascinated that Johnson switched to piano (no drums on this track) for this song. Unlike the other two songs, this one needed to grow on me, but I enjoyed it by the end.

[READ: January 28, 2018] “The History of The History of Death”

This story is written as a speech given at a Symposium held at the University of Melbourne, 2— The Symposium was called “Postmortem of the Printed Word.”

The speaker announces that in 490 BC Hermodorus tried to refute Heraclitus’ claim that “everything changes and nothing remains still.”  He did so by writing a History of Death in which “only those things which had ceased to change” would be recorded.

After writing the first volume, he died of a seizure.  Another scribe had just recorded Hermodorus’ death when he himself fell ill and died.

Future writers chronicling this History of Death also died in complex ways.  One was trampled by a horse, one died of stomach cancer.  When it was translated into German, it became like something of a light for moths as so many scholars wound up dead. (more…)

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