ALBUM REVIEW: Khruangbin Reaches for the Sky on ‘Hasta El Cielo’

The Texas trio gives their 2018 masterpiece a dub redux.

I’ve been a pretty big Khruangbin freak ever since hearing them on a Spotify playlist. Sometimes the robots just get it right, you know? Their last album, Con Todo El Mundo, was one of my favorite albums of 2018. Their incredible blend of jazz, soul, hip-hop, funk, rock, reggae, Asian, Latin and African rhythms and whatever else is made all the more fantastic by how they manage to stay true to their own signature sound, which was warm, groovy and deceptively simple.

They’ve also recently contributed collaborated with electronic duo Maribou State, opened for Trey Anastasio, and been embraced by the hip-hop world. Needless to say it’s been a big year for the Houston outfit. All of which brings us to Hasta El Cielo, a spacey, minimal dub reimagining of Con Todo El Mundo.

For a band that leaves a lot of space in their songs and writes simple compositions with interlocking parts, a dub album makes perfect sense. Bassist Laura Lee said she learned by playing along to dub records, particularly ones by Jamaican legend Scientist, who reworks two songs on the deluxe edition. I like her bass being really out front, and unlike the heavy rumble of old Jamaican dub, it’s clean and melodic. This album made me want to get a bass!

It’s a truly pleasant listen, at times maybe too much so. These aren’t the wild and crazy dubs of the ’70s, but more like a downtempo remix. If you know the original album as well as I do, you might catch yourself thinking, “Hey, where’s that guitar part? Or that vocal melody?”

Overall, Hasta El Cielo is a great album for spacing out and getting lost in. If anything, it only suffers due to comparisons with its parent album, though it floats along in an echoey, cavernous world of its own.

Score: 🔈 🔊 🔊 🔊/5