A&E

Khruangbin brings a backlog of recent material (along with a special guest) to Las Vegas’ Brooklyn Bowl

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Vieux Farka Touré (left) with Khruangbin
Jackie Lee Young / Courtesy

Khruangbin will have a bonus treat at its September 29 tour stop in Las Vegas, in the form of virtuoso guitarist and singer Vieux Farka Touré. He’ll accompany the Houston trio on the heels of the collaborative project Ali, released September 23 and titled in honor of Touré’s father, late African blues great Ali Farka Touré.

The album mixes Vieux Farka Touré’s distinct guitar, vocals and Malian styles with Khruangbin’s genre-bending psychedelic cocktail of funk, reggae, soul and world music. One track, “Savanne,” finds a mystical guitar solo layered with reggae and Latin rhythms and ​​Touré’s singing, while the blues-rock hook in “Tongo Barra” eases into a hip-swaying vamp amid masterful riffs.

With that release, along with February EP Texas Moon with Leon Bridges, 2020 EP Texas Sun (also with Bridges) and 2020 LP Mordechai in its ever-expanding arsenal, the band is now in full performance mode, putting on stellar shows while cycling in a variety of guest artists. Since Khruangbin’s Space Walk tour began in July, Canadian indie group Men I Trust has joined the group onstage, and Thundercat is slated to open for them in Denver.

The Weekly caught up with Khruangbin bassist Laura Lee Ochoa and drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson ahead of their Brooklyn Bowl performance, to discuss working with Vieux Farka Touré and Bridges and more.

What was it like making an album with Vieux Farka Touré? Ochoa: It was challenging to work with somebody who’s basically a one-man band. He plays incredible, amazing guitar—a very full-bodied style of playing, and sings as well. [So] it was a challenge for us to figure out how to work around his style of playing. Also, neither of us speaks each other’s first language. … It’s really beautiful to be in the studio and honor the fact that music is a universal language. We were able to speak through playing.

How did the pandemic affect the recording process with him or with Leon Bridges on those collaborative works? Johnson: We had a really good 2019, recorded a lot of stuff —[2020 EP] Texas Sun, Mordechai and [some of] the Vieux Farka Touré material ... basically at the same time. [Then] in 2020, we shut it down.

Ochoa: From processing plans to vital mastering—all that stuff got backed up over COVID. And we were all stuck in our respective homes, which are not near each other. So we were kind of lucky that we burned out in 2019 (laughs). Because we just wanted to be sheltered in for a while. The [“Texas Moon”] video was the first time we were actually together in the pandemic, I think.

The artwork, music videos and promotion posters surrounding these projects also stand out. How do you approach those visual elements? Ochoa: Everything Khruangbin does is thoughtfully curated. Aaron Lowell Denton is behind the Texas Sun artwork. He had done one of the posters for our tour with Leon. … He was somebody that we were all fans of working with [and] we’ve worked to create the landscape in a way that was fitting for the content.

Your tour for Mordechai was delayed by the pandemic. How has it been performing those songs live, two years after they were released? Ochoa: It’s obviously bittersweet, because the pandemic took a giant toll, and it’s still taking a toll on everything. But I think, as performers, it’s a really rewarding time to play. ... It’s safe to say that we’re still playing shows where it’s people’s first show back.

KHRUANGBIN With Vieux Farka Touré. September 29, 6 p.m., $55-$75. Brooklyn Bowl, ticketweb.com.

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Shannon Miller

Shannon Miller joined Las Vegas Weekly in early 2022 as a staff writer. Since 2016, she has gathered a smorgasbord ...

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