Khruangbin review – self-indulgent poolside funk grooves

Mark Beaumont
Spectral licks … Khruangbin’s Laura Lee. Photograph: Jim Bennett/Getty Images

The result of the trendsetters’ thirst for the obscure and experimental means Thundercat’s quaalude jazz and Goat’s psychedelic antics are now quasi-mainstream. The flipside is that acts usually suited to experimental evenings at the Jazz Cafe are suddenly supporting Father John Misty and shifting 1,500 tickets in Brixton: enter Khruangbin, three Texans who make largely instrumental, sultry soul records that sound like the Thai funk cassettes your granddad might have played to get an orgy going in 1967.

Devotees will laud their atmospheric Iranian and Spanish touches and hints of Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield. But to a less sympathetic ear, there is an unavoidable similarity to the extended, self-indulgent jam portion of an Eric Clapton show before he plays the final verse of I Shot the Sheriff. Khruangbin just do that bit. For an hour. Drummer Donald Johnson taps out lackadaisical funk grooves. Bassist Laura Lee sways like a human glitterball, occasionally sighing mistily. They purely service besuited guitarist Mark Speer, spilling out glacial licks and staccato riffs with knowing nods to the crowd that come to feel parodic.

Refrains from Leon Hayward’s I Want’a Do Something Freaky to You and Kool & the Gang’s Summer Madness emerge between form-free poolside grooves from their recent second album, Con Todo el Mundo, but it’s not until the lacklustre disco of Evan Finds the Third Room and the spectral soul of 2015’s White Gloves round out the set that they come within sighing distance of a coherent song structure. It’s wonderful sex muzak for Mac DeMarco fans, but it’s not entertainment.