Brownout: Homenaje

[31 March 2008]

By Alan Ranta

The marketplace is getting more and more crowded by the day. With bands like The Lions, Quantic Soul Orchestra, and Sharon Jones’ Dap Kings already plugging away at ‘70s reggae, afrobeat, and funk, it’s hard to say if the world really needs more Fela Kuti followers. Brownout does make some waves, being as they carry an absurd amount of keyboard-heavy Latin influence. They’ve got vicious horns, a tight rhythm section, nodding Santana grooves, and they are remarkably from Texas, of all places. I’m sure they really stick out in Austin, and in a very good way, but I’m forced to judge this on a worldwide scale. As such, I can’t see them making much of an impact.

That being said, there are more than a few tasty highlights here. The sombre neo-soul slug “They Don’t Know” is fairly minimal but dirty funk under a simple guitar riff, liquid bassline, and vocals blanketed with dense reverb. The opening “Brown Wind and Fire”, nodding to an obvious influence, follows a similar path with a relaxing groove, liberally panned guitar, and is that a string section I hear? My sweet lord, that hits the spot. When they’re resting in a comfort zone, it’s hard to tell the tracks apart. But when they relax and take a few chances, the odd piece stands out on the same level as Quantic or Jones. While this album probably won’t break them into the mainstream, I doubt they’re going away any time soon, and I wouldn’t want that. There is clear potential here. Keep pushin’ on.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/brownout-homenaje/