The great rapper Noah23 once said, “Sometimes… you’ve GOT to let go”. You might say, then, if you were like neurotic about allotting specific, designated objectives to all the bands you listen to (which I imagine some John Cusack-akin individuals in the 1990s might have been), that Khruangbin (which I finally figured out is pronounced “Crung-bin” by, uh, looking at Wikipedia) make “music for letting go to.” At least since 2018’s stunningly crisp and focused Con Todo El Mundo, this stuff is fresh, vibrant and ardently narcotic, with chord progressions steeped in neo-jazz but with the stalwart body of funk rock, Laura Lee’s persistent bass thumping in on all the albums (the other two members, Donald Ray “DJ” Johnson Jr. and Mark Speer, remaining the same, too). And here I was freaking about personnel for Mordechai in specific. It’s like, just let go, dude.
Anyway, the Houston band, which started in 2015 and has been fairly busy since then on the festival and touring circuit and cutting a mini-LP with Leon Bridges, sound nothing on 2020’s return Mordechai if not comfortable in their own skin and with their own pre-established m.o. There’s something gloriously old-school even in beholding this band’s picture on stage — that guitar and bass standing in parallel cavalry like two Civil War muskets, ready to do battle with rock festival staleness and with any notion that you have to pop like six Oxy Contin’s at a show to have a good time (though that probably still doesn’t hurt). They’re a three-piece rock band, anyhow, which manages to draw influence from disparate genre such as the jazz boys like Kamasi Washington and the neo-electro-soul outfit The Internet (both LA acts, coincidentally enough), funneling everything through their rudimentary, straight-ahead band anatomy somewhat like a jazzier, more stone-out incarnation of Umphrey’s McGee.
The extended, hypnotic and brutally funky jam section of “Time (You and I)” called distinctly to mind Sly & the Family Stone, particularly within their otherworldly There’s a Riot Goin’ on era and all their steady, blissed-out groove. In other segments, like the pristine opening bars of “Father Bird, Mother Bird,” Mark Speer’s guitar takes the limelight and makes a name for itself with some clean, but textural and psychedelic sustain. “Pelota” is a Buena Vista Social Club rehash saved ironically by these frantic, almost compulsively even electronic hand claps, but it’s parts like the noodley, spaced-out oblivion of “One to Remember” that maneuver this music into classic realm, with ample originality oozing out of its splayed, damaged pores.