Instrumental

VIDEO PREMIERE: Tigue - Triangle

Will Shenton

There are few sounds better suited to the strange familiarity of dreams than Tigue's vibrant experimental percussion. Taken from the Brooklyn trio's forthcoming Strange Paradise, "Triangle" is a mesmerizing piece that feels at once recognizable and a little bit alien—all the usual pieces are there, but ripples at the margins hint at something curious just behind the curtain. Tigue's enthralling command of rhythm and texture propel the song forward with just enough off-kilter structure to keep you checking your peripherals.

Filmed in an old Brooklyn gymnasium by director Steven Reker, the accompanying video sees the band awash in fog and undulating distortion, attending to their instruments as if engaged in a serene ritual. It's fun to see musicians look so relaxed while playing something so complex, and the whole thing is shot through with Tigue's signature goofy quirks: they gaze longingly at the titular triangle, apparently an object of worship, and squish their faces in mock-religious fervor.

"Triangle" is simultaneously lighthearted and cerebral, casual and austere. It finds beauty in rhythm and repetition, and asks the listener to engage with sounds just at the edge of their comfort zone. That it can manage all that without taking itself too seriously is downright brilliant.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Kai Basanta - sunlight

Will Shenton

Kai Basanta's new video, "sunlight," is a stunning exploration of texture and movement. Directed by Derek Branscombe, Basanta's undulating beats are matched with a patchwork kaleidoscope of mesmerizing, uncannily organic shapes and patterns that unfold with languid serenity. This is a video you can truly melt into, letting the rays of titular sunlight wash over you in waves.

The opening track on Basanta's new EP, earth, "sunlight" uses a beautiful combination of atmospheric synths and acoustic instruments, with the percussion (his specialty) seemingly a blend of both. This is reflected in Branscombe's video, as the line between CGI and the natural world is blurred; it's often hard to tell which images were created from scratch and which were captured in the wild.

It raises the question of whether the distinction between "natural" and "artificial" is really a meaningful one. If anything, it's their synthesis that makes "sunlight" so impactful, and such an alluring landscape to get lost in.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Xander Naylor - Bad For Glass

Will Shenton

Xander Naylor's "Bad For Glass" is a wild track. The second song on the Brooklyn-based guitarist's latest solo LP, Arc, it takes the form of a manic, expressionistic instrumental piece, and the video that accompanies it adds another layer of enthralling disorientation.

While much of the rest of the album takes its notes more clearly from noise rock or ambient music, "Bad For Glass" has a dynamism that demonstrates Naylor's range. It's a technically impressive track, with lightning-fast work on the fretboard of his guitar, but it never crosses the line into mere indulgence. The transitions from phrase to phrase make it feel like a living thing, with a pause between each as if it was catching its breath.

In the video (shot by Yuan Liu and edited by Naylor himself), we see the artist in a stairwell with his guitar, alternately playing along and manipulating a glowing ball. Most of the shots are presented with quick, jagged cuts, and he occasionally smirks at the camera before returning to his instrument.

There's no clear narrative, and in this context, that's just fine. "Bad For Glass" isn't about a breakdown, a loss of control, or any of the other vignettes this sort of experimental music so often evokes (at least not obviously). Instead, it's an opportunity to revel in sound for the sake of sound, texture for the sake of texture—and at that, it succeeds spectacularly.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Machweo - Chant

Will Shenton

On their latest video, "Chant," Italian experimental group Machweo explores the hypnotic effects of contrasting movement. The song is loosely structured into two parts—one almost orchestral, the other solidly in the realm of trance—and the liminal spaces between them offer an opportunity to unify two sounds that seem irreconcilable on paper.

The music is accompanied by an understated performance from dancer Anxela Malo. By playing Malo's simplest movements both forward and reverse, director Nicola Galli encourages us to pay attention to the details—the twitch of a muscle, overlooked on the first pass, becomes obvious when it's reprised a moment later. The effect is subtly surreal.

As Machweo's acoustic instrumentation builds to a slow crescendo, an electronic beat begins to simmer beneath the surface. At first, it's quiet, only clearly audible when the other instruments take a brief rest. But as the song continues, it starts to dominate the mix, transforming the track into something altogether more propulsive and jagged. Malo's dancing evolves to match the music, culminating with her entire body twisting back and forth, hair splayed with centrifugal force.

"Chant" is an aptly named and utterly mesmerizing video that highlights the dynamic textures Machweo have become known for. As the opener on their forthcoming album, Primitive Music (out 3/23 on Portland, OR label Lefse Records), it bodes well for the new project.

REVIEW: Khruangbin - Con Todo El Mundo

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Phillipe Roberts

For two records now, Khruangbin have delved deep into a brand of cosmic funk whose proudly professed global influences have stuck them with the loaded, woefully illogical “world music” label. Digressions on the validity of the term aside (why does the “world” start where the English speaking world ends?) the Houston-to-London trio is perhaps one of the few to actually embrace its universalist implications. Their Spotify account shouts their influences from the rooftops, touting “certified Persian bangers” and “heat from Nigeria, Ghana and more” in carefully curated playlists that connect the dots right back to their own work.

First album The Universe Smiles Upon You leaned heavily on '60s and '70s Thai funk and rock records, but on Con Todo El Mundo they absorb new influences, collecting musical passport stamps, mostly from Iran and Nigeria, with abandon. Some tracks highlight specific influences more than others, but overall, the blend is an unrecognizable and immensely satisfying hybrid. If a revamp of the Voyager Golden Record is ever in the works, with only enough room for a split single, Con Todo El Mundo will be a fitting starting point for extraterrestrials building an “Earth” mix.

No matter how you slice it, the Frankensound assembled by Khruangbin on Con Todo El Mundo is primarily funk. Bassist Laura Lee brings a radiant, chunky tone that clings loosely to the backbeat, powering the punchy shuffles of drummer Donald Johnson through the seemingly endless web of rhythmic scrapes and psychedelic slides dreamed up by guitarist Mark Speer. The three are a magnificent working band, and many of these tracks feel like they could go on forever, squeezing in and out of tight grooves like it’s nothing. Small instrumental flourishes and occasionally vocals enter the mix, particularly on “Evan Finds the Third Room,” but the focus never drifts away from the smooth cohesion they build into the jams. Over the course of the record, the effect is that of a perfectly sequenced funk DJ set.

While this tendency towards impeccable roundness may leave those hungry for the jagged edges of psychedelia a bit out in the cold, the trio do produce some standout moments that linger heavy on the mind long after the set comes to a close. The rapidfire acceleration into the initial pirouetting guitar riff on “Maria También” is mirrored brilliantly by the bass. Enough cannot be said about Laura Lee’s playing on this record; song after song, her warm melodies are a highlight, particularly on penultimate track “Rules,” where her weeping lines surge to the front with invigorating confidence, and “Evan Finds the Third Room,” a proper disco sendup with a bit of Donna Summer call-and-response thrown in. On the whole, however, Con Todo El Mundo is perfectly happy to hang back, playing to the room and allowing you to provide your own context—if instrumental doesn’t quite cut it, you might call it post-funk.

On the aforementioned “Shades of Man,” Khruangbin turns a field recording of two Iranian women working out how to pronounce their name into a skit, played out over ocean sounds. “You say that’s a K-H-R-U,” one woman’s voice cautiously begins. She shoots. “Crewangbin?” Light chuckles around the room. “Crungbin,” a voice corrects. Bless a band with a pronunciation guide.

Dead air. A long silence.

“No…”

And back into that effortless groove, punctuated by a repetitive, chanting “YES.”