Make no mistake -- Ya-Ka-May is Galactic's disc: This unstoppable mix of sexed-up jazz‚ grinding R&B‚ and uncompromising Industrial could only have come from the vanguard of New Orleans' next generation. However‚ their latest effort is built around collaborations with some of NOLA's biggest names‚ as well as artists that haven't broken outside the Crescent City. To paraphrase the snake-oil-selling "emcee" on the thumping opener "Friends of Science‚" the result is that we get to hear some tremendous musicians "as we have never seen them before."
For instance‚ "Boe Money" features the heavyweight institution Rebirth Brass Band. Rebirth's always brought a next-level aggression to their spin on NOLA street music‚ but "Boe Money" opens a creative door that sucks them inside and morphs them into a towering juggernaut. Stanton Moore's relentless foundation adds rocket fuel to Rebirth's hip-hop attitude. Simultaneously‚ Rebirth's atomic-powered front line blasts out unstoppable horn charts that give Galactic rippling layers of iron-pumping muscle. If you're not breathless by the end of this ungodly track‚ you weren't dancing hard enough.
Although Irma Thomas has been singing Sexy To Power for decades‚ the done-me-wrong song "Heart of Steel" is tougher and nastier than anything contemporaries Aretha Franklin and Etta James have ever attempted. Anyone familiar with Allen Toussaint's original version of "Southern Nights" will recognize the vocal effects on Toussaint's contribution to Ya-Ka-May‚ "Bacchus"; happily‚ the mesmerizing atmosphere of "Bacchus" is as far away from Glen Campbell as it gets. Walter "Wolfman" Washington makes a frighteningly truthful deity on "Speaks His Mind‚" and John Boutté's gospel-funk "Dark Water" wraps round your head like a big friendly python.
On the Y2K side of town‚ Big Freedia's "Double It" and Cheeky Blakk's "Do It Again" crush grooves wafer-flat‚ and Katey Red & Sissy Nobby's "Katey vs. Nobby" makes a fast-food order sound like a war cry. These artists come from an element of Bounce (NOLA's spin on hip-hop) called "sissy rappers." That's their tag‚ not mine‚ and it's a phenomenon that can only come from a place where cross-dressing is commonplace. Believe me‚ once you experience the sheer‚ visceral power of these tracks‚ any wardrobe issues become secondary.
Ya-Ka-May isn't the first time Galactic has worked with vocalists. But instead of limiting themselves to one singer‚ they brought together a musical community that's not just alive‚ but is headed straight for the future.
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