Social Listening, Pt. 1

It’s been quite a month since my last post – a lot has happened in the world: some very bad stuff, and some promising stuff. My title this time around isn’t inspired by current social or political unrest, but a play on words of a concept brought about by our current health crisis- social distancing. One of the few pleasures we have right now comes from the artist community, in the form of the fruits of their increased labor during these trying times; in other words, there is a lot of good music coming out right now.

For this post, I’m taking a spin on some more new chilled vibes, first from Texas trio Khruangbin, then a solo project from one half of Thievery Corporation, Eric Hilton, and then the latest from Swiss producer Melodiesinfonie. This is the first of three posts coming rapid fire one behind the another – the next one will focus on recent Jazz releases, and then the third installment will focus on some newer Pop releases.

Earlier this year, the Texas-based trio Khruangbin released an EP celebrating their home state in collaboration with retro Soul singer Leon Bridges called Texas Sun, and it was not only my introduction to them, but it was a short, fantastic set that had me clamoring for more from that collabo; while that didn’t happen, the group has released its’ third album Mordechai.

Right out the box, this album is fiyah – the opening track “First Class” gives you a funky but smooth, almost Roy Ayers – like groove to it, followed by the recent single “Time (You and I)” which evokes early 80’s ESG or Tom Tom Club – open a window when listening to these two, they’re so funky! Their love for various World music styles makes it’s way into several tracks: Asian music (particularly Thai) influences “Connaissais de Face“, Latin music infuses “Pelota“, Dub Reggae injects its’ way into “One to Remember“, and African high-life informs “So We Won’t Forget“. The other tracks have less Global influence, but are nice as well; in particular, “Dearest Alfred” reminds me of the group War, themselves a melange of multiple influences, and the somewhat languid, disaffected vocals add another element to the songs.


Their blend of retro and World flavors, and for me, just the aspect of them getting the absolute most out of a simple guitar, bass, and drum setup, has this one looking like an album of the year candidate – it’s that good!. Here is the video for “Time (You and I)“…

In a recent interview, multi-instrumentalist and producer Eric Hilton hinted that his debut solo album Infinite Everywhere perhaps signals the beginning of the end for Thievery Corporation, the group with which he’s spent the last two plus decades as part of with Rob Garza; here’s hoping they have more music in them collectively.

What you will notice most about this album is the emphasis on a certain mood, which is mainly chill; of course, this is in contrast to the genre-bending and blending aspects of TC, putting all elements of Latin & Brazilian, Lounge, Funk, African, Jamaican influences in the mix, often within the same song. It’s sparse on lyrics, too; it’s music that lets your mind just drift away to a serene place.

With this album, you get essentially a collection of what would sound like the quieter moments of his home group; all in all, though, it’s still pretty much a Thievery Corporation album, and that’s always a good thing… Here is the video for the title track…

The latest project for prolific Swiss producer Kevin Wettstein aka Melodiesinfonie is the 13 track Fragments; this is a followup to last year’s A Journey to You, which was one of my top albums of the year; he has also recently released a collaboration with an artist named Dorj, which I reviewed a couple of posts back.

Something I’ve often wondered, is if when pre-releasing tracks from an upcoming album, if there’s a vote among those involved as to which tracks get released; I’ve often disagreed as to what was released. In the case of this album, he released “Unity“, which fits in well with Alt-Soul, the mildly jazzy “Loner“, and the hazy “Dizzy Reality“; these are all nice tracks, but they didn’t immediately grab me like “Fun“, with its’ JB’s – ish funky guitar – my folks in Chicago would be steppin’ to this one – “Home” and “What a Day” are mildly Dub-ish with their bubbling Reggae-like basslines, and “Spirit” gives a hint of Bossa Nova. The guitar seems a focal instrumental point here, and it reminded me of Durutti Column, a favorite British group of mine from the 80’s, for its’ chilled out guitar-based tracks.

When comparing this new album up against his last one, that one is slightly better, but this one is still a very good album. It’s a little psychedelic, a lil bit Jazz, a lil bit Blues, a touch of Dub, and some Funk, but plenty of headnoddas throughout. There’s not yet a video for any of the tracks, but here’s the audio for “Fun“…

By maestrotjd

I'm a music head. A classically trained violinist/violist literate from chant to Chopin to Copland, Soul man, aging Punk, Classic rocker, Alt rocker, Church choir man, House head, Techno, Industrial guy, almost Rasta, Ska & Rock Steady baby, Junglist, Dubstep to Two-step to Chicago old school steppin', Lounge & Exotica, World Fusion, Latin & Bossa Nova dude, Jazz man from Swing to Bebop to Acid, Trip hop and Hip hop, ya don't stop, a lil bit Country, Gospel, and everything in between. These are my musings (or ramblings).

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