By now it’s a given that any Galactic album will sound different than the band does onstage: Live shows for them are about stretching out instrumentally, while studio records are about writing songs and collaborating with a growing list of singers. Picking up from 2015’s Into the Deep—which, like this album, had multiple singers and a strong R&B slant—the new disc is the least “jam band” thing Galactic have yet done. Though officially an album, it clocks in at 24 minutes, with the longest track a tidy 3:44. There isn’t an extended groove or solo to be heard, and there are plenty of moments when you wouldn’t necessarily peg it as a Galactic record.
But if the goal was to present good songs in a tasty context, they’ve more than succeeded. And this short album’s pleasures come from the multi-layered arrangements, which reveal more nuances with each listen. Even the three instrumentals are mini-epics rather than jams: The opening “Already” starts out in film-noir fashion with Jeff Raines playing ominous fuzz chords against Rob Mercurio’s bassline. He later takes a brief but furious solo as layers of sound build up behind him, including Stanton Moore’s electronically processed drums. The sequel track at album’s end, “Ready Already,” is an even denser sound collage with wah-wah guitars, sci-fi synths and soprano sax all woven into the mix.
Galactic’s affinity with female vocalists also continues here; of the five featured singers, Revivalist David Shaw is literally the odd man out. Erica Falls, who’s been a highlight of their recent live shows, delivers the goods on “Touch Get Cut,” probably the most old-school soul track here. But the real news is that they’ve included a couple of young artists with underground followings, stretching the boundaries as they did by including Big Freedia 10 years ago. Local YouTube sensation Princess Shaw does a smooth turn on “Going Straight Crazy,” but the high point is the Boyfriend track, “Dance at My Funeral.” It’s the most raucous thing here, and the biggest step outside the usual Galactic wheelhouse.
The ultimate Galactic album would still be one that combines the sonic experiments here with the flowing grooves of their live show. But you can always get that by catching a gig and blasting this on the way home.