As a writer it’s always dangerous to say that words get in the way, and until recently Khruangbin didn’t seem to believe in them, but Mordechai breaks new ground. Virtually every song on the album features the entire band singing. While a ground-breaking step for the Houston-based trio, It is not unprecedented, the group having tried on the concept of vocals while working with Leon Bridges on the joint Texas Sun EP. The resulting frenzy from that release, combining ‘60’s soul with loose-limbed grooves, led to a number one listing on the Americana/Folk Albums chart.

Mordechai is full of air as has been the case with much of Khruangbin’s music. Filling in all the spaces isn’t necessary, and the languid grooves insinuate so much more than stating it all directly. Laura Lee Ochoa’s supple bass fills “Dearest Alfred.” As sultry as the heat of a Texas summer, Mark Speer’s guitar fills open out like another captive of the sun’s glow, slowly unfurling, lost in a reverie.

One of the only songs that seems like it could be found anywhere else is “Time (You And I).” Whatever the reason, it feels like something from Daft Punk. Yet where they used a mountain of others to form their grooves, Khruangbin does it with just the three of them. The chorus, “That’s life/ If we had more time/ We could live forever /Just you and I,” is part lyric, part musical mantra.

Cooling off after the heat, air conditioner blasting, “So We Won’t Forget” develops with the bass throwing out a thick layer of funk, while guitar runs seemingly cascade in streams. The drums of DJ Johnson provide a steady counterpoint to the proceedings while the lyrics simply spell out the importance of remembering that which is important, “Call me what you need/ Words don’t have to say/ Keep it to yourself,” yet because things are so easy to forget, “Ooh/ Say you remember/ For I think I’ve lost it.

While the three members of Khruangbin come from different musical backgrounds, what ties them together is their ability to synthesize these influences into something that is greater that the three parts. Speer and Johnson played gospel music in the band at St. Helens Church in Houston, home to Beyonce and Solange Knowles and their family. Lee and Speer formed a bond over their shared interest in Middle Eastern architecture and music. Together they spent Tuesday nights dining at Rudyard’s Pub. Choosing what to eat was more complicated that choosing what to play. As Speer explains the music, “wasn’t meant to be complicated with a lot of shredding and all this stuff — I just wanted it to be simple and pretty and moody.

Filtered through the myriad of textures the band creates, “Dearest Alfred” takes note of the letters Lee’s father would send to his twin brother. “If There Is No Questions” is drenched in gospel would perform from the church bandstand. Ending the album, “Shida” wordlessly moves on a lyrical six-string bed, tossing and teasing guitar phrases in a language both inspirational yet inexplicable. The wordless ahs only add to the mystery wrapped in the music. The only frustration comes from attempting to locate the notes within a cultural framework. Which in many ways is exactly the point. Fitting sounds into a particular box allows it to be fractionalized and marginalized. If the music lives outside that space all we can do is accept it or reject it.

Khruangbin has created not only the musical equivalent of their hometown, but of its culture, where various influences seem to always be available. The avant-garde walks hand in hand with the country crowd, defining a brew that draws on the past while looking toward the future. Mordechai resides in a dimension all its own. In this place, in this moment, in this now is all there is. They meld their parts and their music more like artists staking out a canvas. The images they create are exquisite canvases demonstrating the limitless depths of their talent.

The avant-garde walks hand in hand with the country crowd, defining a brew that draws on the past while looking toward the future.
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