Photo By Harrison Boyce
The Budos Band had a pretty sweet franchise going through their first three albums. Their self-titled 2005 debut established the nine-member instrumental group’s Afrobeat-spiked-with-funk/soul chops, while sequels Budos II and Budos III explored Ethiopian jazz and rock influences, respectively.
But the first thing you’ll notice about their latest album is that it is not Budos IV. Burnt Offering takes the band’s sound on a detour into heavier, weirder psych-rock territory. When there’s a hooded wizard straight out of Middle Earth holding a lantern on the cover (drawn by drummer Brian Profilio), you should know what you’re in for.
“I think that for us it really represents a certain crossover and coexistence of these seemingly different genres, but in a similar geographic and musical space,” says saxophonist Jared Tankel on the phone from his Brooklyn apartment. He notes that this fusion has been done before, citing the influence of experimental, Black Sabbath-inspired music from Nigerian and Ghanian bands in the ’70s and the distorted guitars that found their way into Ethiopian jazz composer Mulatu Astatke’s work. “Certainly we’ve been very heavily informed by all those different movements. For us, it’s a progression in subtle musical ways. We’re trying to write more melodic metal riffs, something a lyricist might sing over a rhythm track.”
Faithfully blending the various sonic elements on Burnt Offering took some time, particularly when compared to the quick weekend-long recording sessions that birthed their previous LPs. The band worked for two years to find the right balance.
“It’s not drastically different from the first three albums,” says Tankel, “but the things that are different, to us at least, made a big enough difference in the overall sound that it was really important for us to focus and get to that place.”
That means bongos and hand percussion are toned down to give the drum kit a more central role in the mix, to go along with a whole lot of fuzz. For Tankel, the end result is a listening experience closer to the level of intensity and energy of their live show.
The only question is: Is this the birth of a new spin-off franchise?
“I could see us going down the same road aesthetically with the cover art and the songs,” says Tankel. “Maybe not being called Burnt Offering II but, you know, The Wizard’s Spell or some shit like that.”