A hypnotic international fusion of laid back psychedelia and classic, bass lead dub
Ciara Bains
16:05 8th July 2019

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The hazy days of summer have a new soundtrack: Khruangbin’s Hasta El Cielo. As if the Texan trio hadn’t exhibited their sound’s globetrotting goodness already, the upcoming album - a dub reinterpretation of the critically acclaimed Con Todo El Mundo - offers a hypnotic international fusion of laid back psychedelia and classic, bass lead dub. 

Though not in the band’s usual style, Hasta El Cielo is no far fetched experiment. Dedicated fans will have already heard dubs of original ‘The Universe Smiles Upon You’ tracks on special Record Store Day releases of ‘People Everywhere’. Some may even have noticed a dub version of ‘Two Fish and an Elephant’ at the end of the track’s video. Clearly, dub tendencies run strong for Khruangbin, but to ensure the album’s sonic authenticity, the band enlisted the help of esteemed Jamaican engineer and producer Scientist. 

“The first dub albums we listened to were records mixed by Scientist featuring the music of the Roots Radics. Laura Lee learned to play bass by listening to ‘Scientist Wins the World Cup’. His unique mixing style, with the emphasis on space and texture, creates the feeling of frozen time; it was hugely influential to us as a band. To be able to work alongside Scientist, a legend in the history of dub, is an honor.” - Khruangbin

All ten tracks on Hasta El Cielo (which also includes two bonus Scientist remixes) are dreamily reminiscent of their original Con Todo El Mundo form, yet are well adapted enough to suggest compositional innovation. Speer’s distinctive guitar swells in distant blossoms, decorating Johnson’s effortlessly laid back beats with delay drenched riffs. Sections of spoken word guide moments of instrumental sparsity as if providing gentle meditative instruction, or some kind of hallucinatory narration. A definitive feature throughout the album, however - as with dub as a genre - is the clear isolation and dominance of the bass guitar. Amongst the mesmeric expanses created by Speer and Johnson, Laura Lee’s smoothly expressive bass lines become the welcome focal points of every track. 

Hasta El Cielo is a blissfully intoxicated Con Todo El Mundo - it goes without saying that if any band were to so expertly achieve a dub reworking of their music, it would be Khruangbin. Considering the approach to the album’s genre, to suggest that Hasta El Cielo suffers from a slight lack of drive may be out of place. But for those expecting Khruangbin’s signature funky and precise rhythmic grooviness, Hasta El Cielo will not deliver. Though it certainly won’t be the new Khruangbin go-to, what the album will provide is an enticing variation of the Con Todo El Mundo we know and love.

Hasta El Cielo is released on 12 July 2019 via Night Time Stories/Dead Oceans. 

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