POP/ROCK: Galactic, "Carnivale Electricos" (Anti-)
Every New Orleans band has to reckon with Mardi Gras. Galactic, formed in the Crescent City in 1994, takes a wide-angle view here, writing and transforming Carnival songs not only from New Orleans and Cajun country, but also from another Carnival epicenter: Brazil.
Onstage, Galactic is a first-rate funk band. In the studio, it has become a perpetually recombinant group of musicians, producers and conceptualizers, hooking up with collaborators from New Orleans and far beyond. "Carnivale Electricos" is brimming with ideas; it's also one raw, rowdy party album.
Galactic doesn't enforce any trademark sound. While New Orleans funk is laced through the album, it's freely collaged with all sorts of other things. So "Ha Di Ka," featuring Big Chief Juan Pardo, isn't just one more Indian chant backed by a band; it's got fat-bottomed electronics, a deranged psychedelic guitar and explosive samples grappling with Galactic's keyboard funk.
"Voyage Ton Flag," alluding to an old Creole Carnival song from bayou country, crosscuts between a distorted guitar groove, an electronically stuttered Creole vocal (from Steve Riley) and bits of Clifton Chenier's zydeco accordion. A remake of the 1960 Mardi Gras standard, "Carnival Time" -- heartily sung by its original performer, Al Johnson -- throws together brass-band horns, Latin percussion and a determinedly funky clavinet.
Galactic is a more straightforward backup band for the hard-headed, humorous rappers Mystikal and Mannie Fresh in "Move Fast," and for Cyril and Ivan Neville in "Out in the Street." The Brazil Carnival connection is forged in "O Coco da Galinha," a collaboration with Moyseis Marques, a samba singer from Rio de Janeiro. And the 57-second "Guero Bounce" places a bluesy harmonica over Brazilian percussion and New Orleans' hip-hop-tinged bounce beat.
In other words, variety reigns. Galactic doesn't set out to document Mardi Gras and Carnival traditions, but to extrapolate from them every which way, and the Carnival spirit of wide-open possibility comes through.
Galactic performs Saturday at the Cabooze in Minneapolis.
POP/ROCK: Grimes, "Visions" (4AD)
"Visions" relishes dichotomies. It's the third album in two years from Grimes, the electronic pop project of Montreal's Claire Boucher. On the one hand, it's an insular, homemade-sounding set built on looped beats, washes of synthesizers and pizzicato melodies. On the other, it brings to mind top 40 pop from more than a decade ago, as Boucher sings in cooing tones as if trying to channel and then deconstruct Destiny's Child and TLC.
There's a fascinating otherworldly quality to "Visions." Although highly melodic and much more pop than her previous work, it plays more like a set of electronic tracks -- think Four Tet or Aphex Twin -- than a set of structured songs. It's immersive fun, but even its most extroverted tracks, such as "Vowels = Space and Time" or the Julee Cruise-like "Symphonia IX (My Wait Is U)," have a chilly, remote aura.