Self-professed “afro-funk” 10-piece The Budos Band plays a lot. As in often. Frequently. The Staten Island-based group are known for racking up the bus miles with their incessant touring. Which is to say, a lot of people know their sound. They’ve seen them enough times to understand what a Budos record would sound like (namely: a dash of soul, another of jazz, and one more of funk; instrumental fun bottled straight at their home tap, then poured into your ear). So, when front-ish man and baritone sax player Jared Tankel said he thought the band was going to make a “psychedelic, doom-rock record,” that must have raised some eyebrows. But the result is another Budos record, which is definitely nothing to sneeze at.
The coiled cobra on the cover of this new effort is a pretty good metaphor for the music and musicians recorded inside. The majority of the music is a writhing, intense, muscular beast that grooves and slithers, waiting to strike with a big, powerful moment. Plus, sometimes you’re left in a drugged state, like a snake with psychedelic venom. Recorded over two days, all in live takes, there shouldn’t be much studio trickery offering a different take from the live document. Sure, there’s reverb here and there, but producers Bosco Mann and TNT know they don’t have to add extra layers to gold. The 70’s soul-funk that weaves and flows from the disc sounds like something that King Khan would be proud to front, especially if he were on a bad trip that wouldn’t let him focus on pop songs.
The massive sax and trumpet head-on opening “Rite of the Ancients” finds a glistening soundtrack counterpoint in some very 70’s organ courtesy of Mike Deller. All told, there are five percussionists (one trap player, four odds and ends) working together to fix the massive rhythmic grooves that control the flow of the piece, allowing the other musicians to sink their poly-rhythmic teeth into things. All the while, bassist Daniel Foder punches in a slick line that adds to the dance-floor fun.
Immediately following with “Black Venom”, Deller’s Farfisa turns into that traditionally funky, slightly eerie twinge that lingers in the middle of longer, deeper tones from the horns. The ever-present congas, bongos, claves, shakere, and more keep the beat moving, keeping things on a track that I doubt they’ve ever lost sight of. All of the layers, both of horns and percussion, leave the mind swimming in funk. There’s an almost ’70s horror movie soundtrack quality to the track, Tankel’s baritone sax lurching around underneath the rest of the horns.
Later, Thomas Brenneck’s semi-surf guitar in “Nature’s Wrath” swims into a dark, minor water, the percussion (for once) verging on laid back and low-key. The piece is moody and dark, deep, heavy bass and baritone sax holding down the fort like giant, looming mafia hit-men. The psychedelic gleaming of “Golden Dunes” hinges on Foder’s bass, his playing lithe and powerful. The technically sublime guitar/bass lines on “Raja Haje” continue the string section’s shot at the spotlight once the horns take the backseat, a sort of funky take on a Tortoise melody.
“Budos Dirge” isn’t all that dirgey, but it sure is fun. Later, “Crimson Skies” takes the slower method that “Dirge”s title implies, sounding like a funkacized cowboy soundtrack. To be sure, there’s a lot of cinematic touch to the music found on The Budos Band III, and it’s not just the fact that it’s all instrumental. There’s a focus on fun, on grooves that will hook you in. The songs flow in a narrative manner, finding climaxes and moments to stretch and meander, letting the imagination wonder and wander. The Budos Band know how to make fun, technically perfect music. Just as much as this is a great record, it’s a testament to their live prowess. Don’t miss their next live show in your area, but do listen to this on the way there.