Stanton Moore: Captain Carnival

stanton moore

Book I: Sin

There is light.

It’s coming through the window, hostile and unforgiving. Stanton Moore rustles awake, turns over, and looks into it. He squints.

It must be morning. God, it felt like sleep finally came just a moment ago.

He sits up, quickly at first, then slower — a sudden realization that his body is still stiff — exhales deeply, and runs his hand over his face. It’s swollen from the dehydration. His ears are ringing. He grasps at his glasses on the bedside table. He finds them, puts them on, gives his eyes a second to focus. He runs his hand through his hair.

Last night’s Galactic show at Tipitina’s was one hell of a blowout. You’d think it would be easier by now — the band has been playing the coveted Lundi Gras gig at Tip’s for more than ten years now. But last night, when the boys ripped into “Hey Na Na” — the lead single off their new record, Carnivale Electricos — and that electric guitar buzzed, and that snare drum cracked, and the cowbell rung like the cows really were coming home, the crowd just lost it. It certainly helped that Living Colour’s Corey Glover was onstage, singing with that liquid caramel voice to the rafters, eyes rolled back and shoulders undulating like he was seeing God.

But that was last night. Well, technically this morning — the sun was peeking through the needles of the bald cypress trees as the band played the final, pensive notes of “Quiet Please,” capping a marathon effort that lasted eight hours. No wonder the 39-year-old’s limbs are stiff.

No matter. Today, there’s work to be done. This is New Orleans, and it’s Mardi Gras.

In many ways, it was only natural that Moore’s band made an album centered on Carnival. Galactic formed 18 years ago as a New Orleans funk outfit that specialized in playing — embodying, really — its hometown’s biggest festival. After seven studio albums and two live recordings, the time felt right to record once again.

Carnivale Electricos opens with nothing less than a bang: Big Chief Juan Pardo shouting megaphone orders over the thundering drums and hip-shaking bass line of “Ha Di Ka.” The party continues for another 12 tracks, from the tribal street shuffle of “Magalenha” and accordion march of “Voyage Ton Flag” to the singer-soul groove of “Out In The Street” and dirty-alley slink of “Move Fast.” Through it all, Moore’s wrists uncover new ways to subdivide the beat, bobbing and weaving among brassy horns and gurgling keys to keep the party machine pressing forward.

“I’d come up with a bunch of different grooves at different tempos; I’d get to experiment in the studio by myself for a couple days,” Moore says. “Just lay down tons of ideas for the guys to come in and write to. We’d go in every day when we weren’t on the road and chip away at it. It’s a slower process, but the results are good. Being free and experimental, cutting and slicing and stacking and filtering and revamping and rewriting.”

The record — which officially goes on sale in stores on Mardi Gras — is an attempt to harness the energy of Galactic’s legendary live shows and combine it with the clarity of a studio recording.

“We tried to push ourselves sonically and texturally. We really want to look at it like it’s two different mediums — the studio is a different type of thing [than the live show]. It’s almost like painting and sculpting: both have amazing results, but they’re two different mediums, two different ways of expressing yourself. We try to dig into the possibilities and see what you can come up with.”

By the album’s pensive final track, “Ash Wednesday Sunrise,” your ears are ready to surrender from the exhaustion — or do it all over again.

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