How would you describe Khruangbin’s music to your friends was a question on Tiktok. The artistry and skills of the trio from Texas are difficult to put into words. Even when listened to repeatedly, her pieces create so many imaginary moods and images that you would have enough material for several films in your head. You imagine listening: a love story between young surfers on a beach in Thailand, for example. A psychedelic drama in which you can’t tell exactly whether the heroine is sighing in pain or moaning in joy. Or a melancholic Western in which many peace pipes are smoked.

Speaking of smoke.

It may be coincidence or excellent timing, but a surprising amount of music is currently being released that is ideally suited to the – of course well-considered and responsible – consumption of cannabis. In addition to Khruangbin, there is the Dutch band Yīn Yīn and their hypnotic sounds, as well as the Australians Glass Beams, whose current second EP brings back memories of Indian and other South Asian traditions.

“The soundtrack for an opium den” and “This is what it must sound like inside a lava lamp” – these were some of the answers to the question via Tiktok to Khruangbin. Other experts compare the Texans’ uninhibited, plaintive lead guitar with greats like Chris Rea, Tommy Guerrero and even Carlos Santana.

The story of Khruangbin, named after the Thai word for “flying machine” or simply “airplane”, began almost exactly 20 years ago. At the time, guitarist Mark Speer and drummer Donald Johnson, Jr. were both employed by a Methodist church gospel group in the Texas metropolis of Houston. Johnson still sat primarily at the organ. Laura Lee Ochoa, the woman on bass and Moog synthesizer, joined three years later through friends and a shared interest in Afghan music.

After trying out a more electronic band and a tour with Bonobo, they started their own project around 2010. The inspiration for the mix of styles probably matured largely in the barn of a small town, where the band still plays and records their pieces to this day. Speer was recently asked how he comes up with new ideas. “Don’t follow the trends,” he said. “And if that’s the trend again, then do something different.”

“A La Sala” is her fourth studio album, plus a cover album with the songs of Ali Farka Touré from Mali plus five EPs, including a collaboration with US singer and songwriter Leon Bridges.

“Mordechai”, their commercial breakthrough from 2020, awakened the desire to party, to go out and wrestle with complete strangers. But then Corona pressed the stop button; It was only on the first tour after the pandemic that the music was able to really find its purpose – and unintentionally but irrevocably made the three musicians global stars of the alternative scene. To this day, Ochoa and Speer prefer to hide under black wigs during their acclaimed live performances.

“A La Sala” has become quite calm and casual. The relaxation goes even deeper than usual. “Z. E. N. – Watch, Relax, Think” was the name of a Bavarian Radio television series in the 1980s. Listening, relaxing, leaning back would be the appropriate response to Khruangbin. And you’ll probably be able to find a lava lamp somewhere.