It’s been two and a half years since Khruangbin’s Con Todo El Mundo record projected the Houston trio towards widespread success, and while the band has continuously released powerful work, fans have been patiently waiting for Khruangbin’s third career studio album ever since. There’s no doubt that their 2019 Hasta El Cielo record, a dub version of Con Todo El Mundo, as well as the Leon Bridges collaboration, Texas Sun – EP, are fantastic releases from the band; there is just something unparalleled about a full-length Khruangbin project.
This week, on June 26th, Khruangbin’s Laura Lee, Mark Speer, and Donald “DJ” Johnson dropped Mordechai, a 10-song, 44-minute golden assemblage of emotion and instrumentalism. At its core, this project unites every facet of a sturdy album, as well as exhibits every symptom of a band operating at a first-class level. Fittingly, this is exactly where Mordechai kicks off as the intro track “First Class” loads the listener on a groovy yet ethereal stripped-down voyage towards the heart of the project.
“Time (You and I)” follows, and as the first and leading single prior to the album’s release, this song serves its purpose by heaving you into Mordechai. Featuring silky and concentric layers of funky bass, slick guitar, enthralling vocals, and an expanded percussion scheme, “Time (You and I)” will be logged as one of Khruangbin’s most electric tracks ever. Mordechai’s third song, “Connaissais de Face,” arranges spoken word around a guitar-centered background, providing a tasteful and characteristic reset to follow the vivacity of “Time (You and I). ”
Behind the passive stability of “Connaissais de Face” is “Father Bird, Mother Bird,” a gleaming, lyricless ballad between the trio and their instruments. This track is a duet of octaves built upon simple and quiet basslines, as well as stable and predictable drums, which together expose where this music sources its potency. Khruangbin curates an indistinguishable sound founded in the beauty of improvisation, and “Father Bird, Mother Bird” provides the exposed and exemplary case of the band’s secret sauce.
After “Father Bird, Mother Bird,” Mordechai is launched into a momentous three-song run, beginning with the hypnotic six-minute “If There is No Question.” This track pulls you in and back out across its distant vocals and disarrayed melodies, with emotion striking the center of your heart. But before the listener has a second to take a breath or even wipe a tear, the punctual “Pelota” begins ringing as the eruptive apex of this project. Not to sound overly dramatic but “Pelota” is the pinnacle of what can be achieved by a three person band. Each component is singly impeccable while being intoxicatingly united, constructing Laura Lee the faultless stage to accentuate her spanish-sung lyrics.
The final song of the run is “One to Remember,” and it sure is. While “If There is No Question” was intimate and “Pelota” was invigorating, “One to Remember” is sweet and somber, blanketing a layer of far-flung vocals and melodies over stoney percussion and basslines. Not only will this song find you staring at a wall for too long thinking about cruising through the Southwest, it even foreshadows to “So We Won’t Forget:” an impending track with some of the most indelible elements from the project.
Following “One to Remember” are the exotic “Dear Alfred” and the divine “So We Won’t Forget,” two intimate tracks that dissimilarly exhibit Khruangbin at their most open. Both songs chip at the limits of what Khruangbin has attempted before, but the fragile and stripped-down “Dear Alfred” contrasts the joyful and energized track that follows it impeccably. “Dear Alfred” may come across as desolate and monotonous, but the track displays Khruangbin stretching themselves towards a level of indie-rock they rarely pursue, layering synths, candied vocals, and expanded percussion to provide a smooth palate cleanser before what succeeds it.
While Khruangbin’s excellence is rooted in experimentation and improvisation, it would be preposterously unfair to claim that this trio is incapable of producing a song of typical structure. In fact, “So We Won’t Forget” debunks exactly that claim as Khruangbin crafts a song so spirited it could accompany movie credits for a family film. By centering vocals, following a classical cadence, and even featuring a bass-driven bridge, this track leads listeners to emphatically declare that Khruangbin is a generational talent capable of attempting anything with immense success.
Mordechai’s outro, “Shida,” peacefully parks you back into reality, and its awakening components are reminiscent of a theater gently raising the lights as a movie reaches its close. “Shida,” despite lacking lyrics, amalgamates the emotion, effort, and energy of Mordechai, releasing the pain and pleasure of the journey while highlighting Khruangbin’s strongest talents. Just like a sturdy conclusion of a well crafted paper, a solid outro not only transitions from what the album sounded like, but it also leaves the listener with something to remember and feel. On that note, I say that in its entirety, Mordechai is miraculously otherworldly, providing the listener a musical portal to the sublime and unlocking the slack needed for Khruangbin to climb to the top and stay there.