Khruangbin's fourth studio album, A La Sala ("To the Room" in Spanish), is an exercise in returning in order to go further, and doing so on your own terms.
It continues the mystery and sanctity that is the key to how bassist Laura Lee Ochoa, drummer Donald "DJ" Johnson, Jr. and guitarist Mark "Marko" Speer approach music. If 2020's Mordechai, the last studio LP Khruangbin made without collaborators, was a party record that enhanced the band's musical reputation far and wide, then A La Sala is the measured morning after. It's a gorgeously airy record completed only in the company of the group's longtime engineer Steve Christensen, with minimal overdubs. It's a window onto the bounties powering Khruangbin's vision, a reimagining and refuelling for the long haul ahead.
A La Sala scales Khruangbin down to scale up, a creative strategy with the future in mind. The trio's collective musical DNA, the years spent constructing it in Houston's local-meets-global cultural stew, ensures the band continues to sound like no one but itself. A cascade of crisp melodies emanates from Marko's reverb-heavy electric, dancing gently around Laura Lee's minimalist almost-dub bass triangles, while DJ's drums serve as the tightened-up pocket and unwavering dance floor on which all this movement takes place.
Yet there's a freshness to A La Sala's instrumental interactivity, less concerned with getting further out than going deeper in, a profound desire to celebrate the world's external wonders. Where prior albums strived towards music's polyglot edges, such inquiries now sound like beloved intimacies. Here, Khruangbin's sonic touch-points -whether spaghetti-western film scores (on "Fifteen Fifty-Three"), West African discos (on "Pon P n"), G-funk fantasias ("Todav a Viva"), living room dancing moments (the first single, "A Love International"), or even ambient found-sounds (on "Farolim de Felgueiras and throughout the album") - are ingrained characteristics.
This is who they are! Unique and huge (and growing), ambitious and driven. Khruangbin's aspirations and commitment to playful creativity even extends to A La Sala's vinyl packages, of which there will be seven distinctive covers and color-sets.
Designed by the band using Marko's multitude of travelog photos, the images are windows from the band's living room onto a set of daydreams, scenes of impossible skies, external glances that illuminate what is going on inside. Each cover image comes with a matching color vinyl. These too are all about looking out and looking back, in order to better look ahead.
1. Fifteen Fifty-three
2. May Ninth
3. Ada Jean
4. Farolim De Felgueiras
5. Pon P N
6. Todav A Viva
7. Juegos Y Nubes
8. Hold Me Up (Thank You)
9. Caja De La Sala
10. Three From Two
11. A Love International
12. Les Petits Gris