THE BUDOS BAND opening for ME'SHELL NDEGÉOCELLO at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West), Saturday (June 30), 8 pm. Free. 416-973-4000, www.harbourfrontcentre.com. Rating: NNNNN
Between recording and perform ing with Amy Winehouse, Sharon Jones and Raekwon, Dap-kings guitarist Thomas "TNT" Brenneck has had a full dance card for the past few months.
Now that Winehouse has all but conquered North America, Jones's new album is being mixed and the Wu Tang Clan collabo plans are currently on hold, he can refocus his energy on the Budos Band, the brass-battering garage funkestra he formed with his Staten Island buddies. They're about to top their volcanic self-titled debut with the even more explosive Budos Band II album.
What's immediately striking about the new recording - which Daptone has slated for release July 31 - is that the 22-armed Budos juggernaut is pursuing a much broader scope of rhythms and sounds several steps beyond their Fela Kuti-inspired Afrobeat origins.
"When the Budos Band originally got together back in 2002," explains Brenneck before a show in Brooklyn, "we were trying to get away from the Meters and James Brown sort of stuff we'd been playing as Dirt Rifle and the Funky Bullets.
"We were into the Afrobeat sound of the Daktaris and Antibalas, and we wanted to learn how to play it, but once we started writing songs of our own, we moved further and further away from the Afrobeat thing and more into 60s and 70s soul. We were getting into the Moments, Manhattans and those kinds of group harmony things that had their origins in doo-wop."
In addition to the more pronounced deep soul vibe on Budos II, there's a lingering sense of that delectable Ethiopian flava they began to explore with their cover of Samuel Bèlay's Aynotchesh Yerèfu on their first album.
In fact, it seems they've adopted a significant chunk of the early-70s Swinging Addis aesthetic. That refers not just to the telltale Farfisa drone; the whole production has that raw, first-take quality of a single-microphone job where bleed-over and bum notes are overlooked if the feel is right.
"We've been listening to lots of Ethiopian music, tons of it. You know that Ethiopiques series? Our bass player got volumes 1 through 20 on his computer and hooked up everyone in the group. So that sound definitely has a lot to do with how the Budos Band sounds now.
"Once we got away from Afrobeat, we really sank our teeth into Ethio-groove. That's our shit. I mean, we've worked up four Mulatu [Astatke] covers so we can alternate between them at shows.
"To me, there are a lot of similarities between those Ethiopian recordings and my favourite reggae dub stuff from Studio One - just two microphones in the room, with everything cut live to the master with no mixing involved - that's the type of shit we love.
"So this time we just went into the studio as a band and banged out the whole album over two nights. There were two trumpets and a baritone sax on just about every track, and if someone blew a note and the rest of the take was solid, we were like, 'Fuck it, that's a keeper!' It's a much more honest way of recording, and I think it worked out great."
The slow and insidious creep of the Ethiopian sound into mainstream culture, which began in 2005 with Jim Jarmusch's prominent use of Mulatu Astatke's classic songs in the soundtrack to Broken Flowers and continued with the release of Astatke's collaboration with Boston's Either/Orchestra Live In Addis (Buda Musique), hasn't stopped.
The new Sad Nile single from German deep funk crew Poets of Rhythm, under the alias Polyversal Souls, clearly owes a debt to the golden era of Ethio-groove, and there's more.
"It's the sound of the moment," laughs Brenneck. "Did you hear the new Common single The Game, that Kanye West produced? He fucking sampled Mulatu for that!
"And at our rehearsal the other day, somebody played me a track by this German hiphop group who just sampled our version of Aynotchesh Yerèfu. They chopped it, slowed it down and used it as the hook, and it sounds cool."
Additional Interview Audio Clips
Budos Band guitarist Thomas Brenneck had much different experinces working as a touring guitarist for Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jones
Evidently, Brenneck's side project, the El Michel's Affair will no longer be involved in any recording projects with the Wu-Tang Clan or Mos Def.