In 2015, Staten Island's Budos Band surprised fans with Burnt Offering; their first non-numbered title, it delivered a shift in musical direction. In addition to their trademarked fusion of Mulatu Astatke-inspired Ethio-jazz, Afrofunk, and hard-swinging R&B, they indulged a collective love for darker, '70s-era hard rock and psychedelia. With V they have fully integrated the latter aesthetic with the former. The hard rock dimension of their musical persona now exists in an unholy balance with the groove elements of their first three recordings. The set also reflects a new Budos reality: Guitarist Thomas Brenneck and baritone saxophonist Jared Tankel relocated to California, and other members became parents. Budos became a bi-coastal outfit whose Thursday night rehearsals and writing sessions were jettisoned in favor of periodic get-togethers when members could travel East. They wrote and tracked V at the same time in their new Diamond Mine recording studio, all within 72 hours. Brenneck took the tapes back with him to L.A. where he and Daptone's Gabriel Roth mixed the 34-minute set.
This fifth outing showcases a more aggressive and inventive Budos Band than the one heard on Burnt Offering. Opener and single "Old Engine Oil" commences with a "Whole Lotta Love"-inspired guitar vamp before cracking snares and kick drums enter alongside horns. The sound is ragged and immediate, charged with energy, fury, and soul. The horn lines marry Muscle Shoals-styled charts to driving hard rock via electric guitars, wah-wah, breakbeat drumming, and a wrangling bassline. "The Enchanter"'s spooky Farfisa organ and fuzzed-out guitar vamp introduce horns that deliver a strolling, punched-up weave of Ethio-jazz and fingerpopping R&B with reverb on stun. "Ghost Talk" is introduced via a nasty, distorted bassline flanked by guitars in one channel and cowbell and snare in the other. When the horns enter, they contribute Afrobeat's meaty fill. A wonky organ solo paired with the bassline swaggers amid excessive reverb and wah-wah effects. "Arcane Rambler" is a collision of vintage psychedelic funk and jazzy adventure. The intersection of horns and breakbeats and loopy analog effects smashes driving metallic rock straight into Afrobeat with a sense of urgent cosmic psychosis. "Maelstrom" -- an illustration of Budos' ability to marry ferocious rock dynamics and tripped-out psych with cinematic drama -- spikes and flows. "Veil of Shadows," with its droning organ, staccato guitars, and swinging snare evoke acid surf and Spanish-flavored rock as the horns frame Andrew Greene's solo trumpet, calling chaos to the fore from reverbed margins. Closer "Valley of the Damned" is initially fueled by a distorted, fuzz-damaged bass in pure psych freakout before guitars, keys, drums, and horns swirl together all the band's musical styles in an orgiastic sound collision. V is a raucous, incendiary portrait of the band's maturity; it's creative and expertly crafted, an exploratory step further into an unknown that refuses to compromise or forsake its established sonic footprint or identity.