In the ’60s, “shadow music” crept across Thailand. Western surf, psychedelia, and R&B infiltrated local sounds, making for a homegrown, heady mix of old and new. Even with flowery ’60s signifiers–cheesy organs, fuzzy guitars–shadow music still sounds new, or at least otherworldly.
Half a world and century away, a trio of East Texas musicians bonded over a shared love of shadow music, which they discovered in the darker corners of the internet. Under the name Khruangbin–“engine fly,” or airplane, in Thai–the band recreated these shadows in a barn in Burton, Texas, and the results are on their debut album, The Universe Smiles Upon You. It’s an unfaithful recreation, distorted by time and place, and that makes it so mind-bendingly good. The sound is sticky and strange, caught somewhere between a slow amble and a shadowy sweep.
“White Gloves,” one of the few songs to have discernible lyrics, might be the most mysterious of all. It’s stuck in the haze of the past tense: “she was a queen / wearing whiiiiitttteee glooooves.” Khruangbin is currently touring with Father John Misty, acting as the ghostly appetizer to his post-modern Lothario. Stranger than fiction.