Corner from the album From the Corner to the Block
Galactic are a band of many incarnations. After a decade with the soulful Theryl "Houseman" DeClouet on lead vocals, they set out in 2004 as an instrumental group, driven by drummer Stanton Moore's syncopated, perfectly-timed rhythms. The New Orleans-based funktet's latest album, however, is far from wordless.
Released this August, From the Corner to the Block features a different MC on every song, ranging from Lyrics Born to Nino Moschella. The horn-spiced title track features Juvenile and backing from the Soul Rebels Brass Band (also performing at ChazzFest.)
For their festival appearance in Charleston, one of the first since the new album's release, they're bringing Gift of Gab (of Blackalicious) and Boots Riley (of The Coup). "We'll be doing some material from their other projects, and filling out the sets with our instrumentals," says guitarist Jeff Raines. "We'll do some freestyle stuff too, off the top of their heads. Gift of Gab's definitely someone who can handle the mic in that way."
If it weren't for Hurricane Katrina, we might have heard From the Corner over a year ago. "The building our studio was in was destroyed," says Raines. "We worked in the studio with quite a few of them (guest MCs), but doing it during an evacuation, we thankfully could do a lot of it by shipping music back and forth."
The album's design began with Galactic writing instrumental tracks they thought would match a certain MC well, then sending them a copy of that to work with. Once they got something back, the band retooled the tracks to give them form and structure. "We were really conscious of trying to make songs with changes and choruses," says Raines. "When we started getting into this project, we became aware that a lot of the music from these guys had just one vamp throughout the tune, so we worked to make the choruses pop a little bit. I think we did that to various degrees of success."
The end result is undeniably hot. It's certainly more structured than the bulk of underground hip-hop, blending Galactic's signature New Orleans jazz-funk with some of the most talented lyricists on the scene. The hips still get down uncontrollably, but now the heads are hip-hop-bobbing too.
The lineup on the Michelob Club Court Stage includes Moore, Raines, sax player Ben Ellman, bassist Robert Mercurio, and keyboardist Rich Vogel.
Galactic continue to secure their title as The Meters' heir in Louisiana, breaking new ground in the process. Even for the long-time fan who's seen them perform many times, an evening set with Gift of Gab and Boots Riley is without a doubt going to spawn the dance floor of the day at ChazzFest. —Stratton Lawrence