Khruangbin: Late Night Tales
Late Night Tales
This is the one in the series I’ve been most looking forward to this year – for many reasons I guess, chief amongst them is the fact that I’m a pretty big fan of Khruangbin – as I was saying right here just recently.
I admire the band’s musical taste in its own playing and you just know that has to come from somewhere, and flow on back through to selections for a “Back To Mine”-styled mix such as this.
Also the members of Khruangbin are tastemakers in their own right now, Instagram and social media presence, they sometimes do DJ sets – often after their own gigs, and that’s been put paid to this year what with the Covid. So this mix album takes the place of an immaculately curated DJ set from the band’s guitarist, Mark Speer. Well, in my mind it does.
Another reason to admire this – to anticipate it and to know rave about it with the full knowledge – is this is easily the Late Night Tales set I knew the least about; it has the highest ratio of songs I’d never heard before. So it’s a real musical education.
Disco, funk, reggaeton are the dominant genres – sometimes all at once – but it’s served up here as a world-mix fusion; a stew of music that comes from all over the place, more vocals than you can usually expect from a Khruangbin album but most of them are not in English. So it’s nice to have this new music to explore, lots of old gems unearthed here.
Then we get to the Exclusive Cover portion of the album, where the curating artist performs a cover you can’t get on their other records. And Khruangbin does not disappoint here with a deep dive into their influences, serving up a beautiful, tranquil rendition of Summer Madness, from one of their all-timers, Kool & The Gang. That charcoal-fuelled slow-burn guitar wafts and sifts across the song as Donald “DJ” Johnson offers the perfect synergy of Questlove and Al Jackson Jr by just sticking to the meat and sinew of the groove. And that warm, floaty bassline that Laura Lee is so good at chunking down on bobs up and down here like a bottle on the tide of the tune; a marker that is all at once easy to pinpoint and not quite instantly obtainable.
It’s a subtle snapshot of what the band does best.
And around it we get all sorts of things, the veritable cornucopia that gets it start with the most recognisable names (to me) Alice Coltrane and Carlos Santana collaborating on Illuminations, the title track from their 1974 record. We set sail from there on a journey, very much that bottle on the water, Laura Lee’s bassline, that is the image, that is the motif, the feeling as we drift in and out of Latina soul (David Marez) and reggae-infused disco-funk (Maxwell Udoh), on through a punk bass-line ushering in Barry White-esque dirty-talkin’ soul-groove (Justine & The Victorian Punks) and at every step we can hear what the band loves about this, what they took from it, how it inspired them. But also it’s just a fun set of songs to kick back with; to have on in any state, at any time.
A brilliant summer compilation awaits.
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