Every New Orleans band has to reckon with Mardi Gras. Galactic, formed in New Orleans in 1994, takes a wide-angle view on “Carnivale Electricos,” 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. The guest list on “Carnivale Electricos” (ANTI- Records) extends from New Orleans to Rio de Janeiro, in tracks that morph across time, space and cultures. “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 and his Mardi Gras Indian tribe, Golden Comanche, isn’t just one more Indian chant backed by a band; it’s got fat-bottomed electronics, a deranged psychedelic guitar and explosive samples.
“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.
The Brazil Carnival connection is forged in “O Coco da Galinha,” a collaboration by Galactic and Moyseis Marques, a samba singer from Rio de Janeiro, that meshes New Orleans and Rio rhythms. 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.