Khruangbin: Day and Night

A brief look at Khuarungbin’s latest two EP projects.


Jackson Crocker, Crest Editor

Khruangbin is a one-of-a-kind band. Their name is derived from the Thai word for “flight” or “plane engine”, and their songs are titled and sung largely in Spanish. This diverse identity is largely down to the members. Lead bassist Laura Lee —a Mexican-American born in Texas— connected in 2009 with the band’s lead guitarist Mark Speer over their shared love of Afghan music and architecture. Speer then recruited Donald “DJ” Johnson, who he’d met during his time in a gospel band, to handle drums and keyboard for the band, completing the trifecta.

Even more unique than the trio’s roots is their sound. Khruangbin is a delightful mix of surf rock, psychedelic rock, and even bits of indie folk. Some of their earlier works like “Con Todo El Mundo,” which was released in 2018, are instrumental masterpieces with intricate but sparse guitar, groovy bass lines, and varied drum arrangements. Their later works however capture the true magic of the band. The calm, desert vibe of the instrumentation combined with the soaring almost haunting vocals of Lee on the track “So We Won’t Forget” off the trio’s album “Mordechai” creates a warm, rich, celestial sound with enough layers to fill any room. Although a stellar example, “So We Won’t Forget” is far from the only song of its type in the band’s discography. Khuarungbin’s later work is chalk full of downright vibes.

The band’s latest project is a sublime example of not only Khuarungbin’s ability to groove, but also their uncanny ability to build unique, specific soundscapes. The trio’s latest consists of two EPs; “Texas Sun” and “Texas Moon.” When listened to back to back, these EPs become quite the album. The bright tones of songs like “Texas Sun” off the EP of the same name speak of windswept sands and sun bleached cacti. In contrast, the darker grooves of songs like “B-Side” from “Texas Moon” paint a picture of starry nights and moonlit Hoodoos. Songs like “Mariella” even dip into the lonely buzz of a motel night.

The inclusion of singer Leon Bridges on these EPs somehow outshines the trio’s superb vocals on “Mordechai,” bringing just the right amount of lyrical intricacy to reinforce and complement Khuarungbin’s expressive soundscapes, without stealing the spotlight.

Although these EPs are incredible sonic experiences, the musicality is somewhat more constrained than some of the band’s older works. Bridges never outshines the instrumentation but he doesn’t fade into the background quite like Lee or Speer either, becoming a recognizable landmark in the sea of sound. This constant throughout both EPs can leave the tracks feeling a little more generic than much of  Khuagbin’s previous albums and EPs.

Nevertheless both EPs—“Texas Sun” in particular— are still trippy, beautiful, groovy and quintessentially Khruangbin.