Results mixed in funk forays

Fans of the neo-soul movement take note: New Orleans supergroup Galactic’s latest release, Ruckus, is a highly produced electronic foray into some modern elements of popular music.

Drawing on their city’s great musical history, the members of Galactic have been crafting a blend of soul, jazz and rock elements for nearly a decade.

Their earlier releases were based around funky grooves in the tradition of another New Orleans supergroup,

The Meters. Galactic’s throwback style attracted a large fan base that has spread across the world thanks largely to their constant touring.

On Ruckus, that throwback sound is still present, but has received a modern update thanks to prolific producer Dan the Automato.

The Automato’s previous work ranges from albums with Eels to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to the Dust Brothers.

He’s considered one of the most innovative producers in the industry.

The hard electronic edge throughout this album is undoubtedly characteristic of Dan the Automator’s work.

The opening track, “Bittersweet,” is driven by Robert Mercurio’s mutated bass vamp and the synthesizer work of keyboardist Rich Vogel.

The use of drum loops fused with the electronic textures creates an almost organic hip-hop feel on tracks like “Mercamon” and the ethereal “Kid Kenner.”

Notably missing at times is Ben Ellman’s amazing saxophone work.

Ellman seems to have abandoned the sax for harmonica and some heavy electronic effects on most of the album.

There’s nothing wrong with the harmonica, but Ellman’s sax was always a highlight of Galactic’s sound.

Theryl de’Clouet’s gritty vocals add a great deal of soul and emotion to a handful of tracks. “Paint” and “Gypsy Fade” are two perfect examples of his up-tempo style.

The band backs away from the electronic future to focus more on their musical roots when de’Clouet is out in front.

The up-tempo bounce of “Uptown Odyssey” is rich in rhythmic jazz elements and finally a little bit of Ellman’s saxophone.

There are several other tracks that focus less on the electronics and more on the Old School grooves that made Galactic popular.

“Never Called You Crazy” is built around the slick drumming of Stanton Moore with Vogel’s growling Hammond organ and Ellman on a rather distorted harmonica.

And “The Beast” is a soul-filled track based around some solid, funky riffs from guitarist Jeff Raines.

Galactic’s attempt to incorporate the electronic and hip-hop elements is commendable.

There’s no denying the fact that the artists achieve growth through musical exploration.

On this album some of it works, but some of it gets a little stale after a few listens.

Until Galactic gets their groove back, go find some records by The Meters for the real New Orleans funky soul music.