Imitation isn’t the highest form of flattery – revolution is. So don’t misconstrue Brownout’s new 12-track homage to Public Enemy as a covers record. Nor is it a sequel to Brown Sabbath, their multivolume tribute to Birmingham’s doomy ironmen. In the funky footsteps of NYC’s El Michels Affair, who led the way with a retro-soul Wu-Tang abstraction called Enter the 37th Chamber, Austin’s Latin groove gang completely reinvents the songs of rap’s greatest rabble-rousers on Fear of a Brown Planet.
“The concept was imagining if the Bomb Squad production team were in the studio with the original bands they sampled,” Brownout guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada revealed, referencing those dense soundscapes originally orchestrated by Chuck D, Hank and Keith Shocklee, and Eric “Vietnam” Sadler. “What would it sound like if they had Kool & the Gang circa 1969 – dropping acid and doing funky stuff? Then imagine they had the limitations of that time: no Pro Tools, no Logic, no overdubbing a thousand sounds. It would have some of the aggressiveness and chaos that the Bomb Squad liked, but it would also sound organic.”
That method of delineating PE’s source material into grooves, then having trombonist Speedy Gonzales throw in melodic arrangements and renegade composer Peter Stopschinski apply synth licks, results in a cold-as-ice instrumental funk record that’s a killer listen in any context.
“I wanted to make something that nodded to the original songs, but that you could put on without having to think of it as a Public Enemy cover,” said Quesada, prepping for a 16-date tour after Brownout bum rush Mohawk Saturday with Third Root and Superfónicos. “Why would we re-create it when you could just go back and listen to the original Public Enemy records – they would always be better.”
Sat., June 2, 8pm