New Orleans' multi-tasking funk outfit Galactic is set to return February 9 with its sixth studio album, entitled Ya-Ka-May.
The 15-song set is the group's second for the label Anti- and features numerous collaborators, including New Orleans staples Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint and the Rebirth Brass Band. Also joining in are lesser-known local musicians such as hip-hop artists Cheeky Blakk and Katey Red.
Galactic drummer Stanton Moore told Billboard.com that the sessions for Ya-Ka-May began immediately after the release of 2007's From the Corner to the Block, a set that also featured a host of collaborations, but drew from artists who are popular within the alternative hip-hop genre (i.e. Boots Riley, Mr. Lif, Gift of Gab). That was something different than we had done before, Moore said. And it panned out really well for us. It helped us take a step forward. We got onto festivals and TV stuff that we hadn't been offered before. The concept for (Ya-Ka-May) was to get artists who were all from New Orleans, regardless of genre.
The new album finds Galactic exploring the familiar territory of Mardi Gras-inspired funk on Boe Money and Wild Man, while taking more unconventional approaches with Liquor Pang and Do It Again. Moore said a few of the tracks draw from a bounce tradition, a New Orleans subgenre of hip-hop. It's based on very specific beats that the rappers rap over, Moore said. We've taken some rappers that work within the bounce genre and then we've done something differently. We haven't even created bounce music with them. It's our own interpretation, creating something that's new.
In composing the tunes for Ya-Ka-May, the group would present the guest artists with a handful of snippets, letting them choose what they'd like to write around. We'd come up with different embryos of tunes -- 30 seconds to one-and-a-half-minute ideas and we'll present these to people. They'll pick the tunes they want to write to and contribute the verses or the choruses.
Galactic will be on tour during the first half of 2010, including appearances at the New Orleans Jazzfest, a five-day slot on the Jamcruise in January and a five-night run at Brooklyn Bowl in early June.
For those not familiar with New Orleans cuisine, the album title is a play off the local, multi-ethnic dish ya ka mein.
It's like New Orleans soul food, but with an Asian twist, Moore said. We just modified that for our purposes. It's not like we're naming the record after a soup.