Brazzaville, the band-slash-mouthpiece for multi-instrumentalist David Brown, writes in its manifesto that it is “dedicated to the naive idea that the world is a beautiful place filled with wonder.” Indeed, the uncomplicated characterization of Brown’s worldview is a fair assessment. Since falling into the arms of a music career as a saxophonist on Beck’s Odelay tour in the late ’90s, Brown has traversed musical maps with the spirit of a happy-go-lucky backpacker — embracing circumstance and rolling with it to find the next direction.
Shortly after his Odelay experience, he initiated Brazzaville with the help of some globally minded musicians. Brown used the band as a platform for synthesizing his myriad journeys and the kaleidoscopic sounds he encountered. Surprisingly, for coming off so pretentious, the band’s sound has always been lucid, like a cross between Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, the Tindersticks, and a lounge act. Though Brown’s subject matter often reflects his raucous travels, his music generally sways like a slab of driftwood subject to the current’s push or pull.
East L.A. Breeze, the group’s sixth album, is only Brown’s latest journal entry. His ever-moving nature now finds him based in Barcelona with yet another incarnation of the group, but his perspective remains fixed from the outside looking in. Brown’s song choice reflects his travels; he covers a Russian pop song (“Star Called Sun”) then uses his Los Angeles hometown as a sorrowful backdrop on the title track. Although his subject matter spans the map, Brown’s boozily romantic baritone threads each narrative together and gives the wistful record a nostalgic hue. But in typical Brown fashion, the record never settles on any particular emotion or thought for long, as if his wanderlust nature keeps him moving toward another song idea.
So, consider East L.A. Breeze a postcard from an old, out-of-touch friend who’s reaching out more to talk about a just-completed adventure than to find out how you’re doing. The friend is writing from some distant land you have long since given up on moving to, let alone vacationing in, but that friend won’t be there for long. In fact, he or she has already moved on. Where to? You’ll just have to wait for the next postcard.