Latin Funk Rockers Brownout Explore More Psychedelic Sounds on ‘Berlin Sessions’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Some bands do a tremendous job of carving out a niche for themselves. That can certainly be said for Austin musical collective Brownout, who have melded rock and funk with Latin tones and rhythms. The band carved out an even deeper niche with some Brown Sabbath albums that gave us something we didn’t know we needed: Latin-funk versions of Black Sabbath songs.

The band has stepped back into original tunes with the new album Berlin Sessions, aptly produced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, and it provides everything that has always been great about Brownout albums.

Right off the bat, you hear more of a psychedelic sound than on previous albums, which were more about getting you to move. With the rhythms laid down, you can still move to these tunes. However, if you look at it from a Parliament Funkadelic standpoint, previous albums were more about good time and fun. This album is more about exploring sounds, whether it’s the spacey keyboard sounds of “Nain” or the falsetto vocals of “Seamus”. If there were a video for “Seamus”, it’s easy to envision it as some kind of Jefferson Airplane setup in front of a psychedelic background.

“Upon This Rock” is a good example of the exploration of sound on this album. It opens with a groovy rhythm that gets your head moving. Then you hear the guitar with plenty of space between notes and the vocals that are reminiscent of Black Pumas, which features Brownout’s own Adrian Quesada. The horns come more to the forefront in this tune and add some soul to the mix. Then toward the end of the song, the volume of everything increases with the sounds swirling all around you in an amazing soulful, psychedelic freakout.   

The deeper you go into this album, the more you realize that the band wants to surround you with sound. For example, if you play “Hold Your Way” on your sound system – no matter what the space is (your living room, your car, etc.) – you will feel like you have placed yourself in the center of a circle formed by the band members all around you. With this song and “Brownie”, it’s best to turn up the sound as loud as you can stand it. Oh, and if you close your eyes while you listen, you might just find your mind doing some cosmic wandering. 

This is one of those albums that is great for expanding your mind – whether or not you’re in some altered state. (It’s fitting then, that the album is released on The Day of the Dude.) Just like albums by Parliament and Funkadelic, this one can get you thinking deeply while you shake what you got. Do yourself a favor and put this album on when you can enjoy it as something more than background music. Let the sound surround you and enjoy the ride.

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