Sonic Reducer: Edmar Castaneda, Galactic, Aloha

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Jazz harp? Yeah, right. Yeah, right. Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda brings an original voice burning with creative joy to a most unusual instrument for jazz. Backed by trombonist Marshall Gilkes and drummer Dave Silliman, Castaneda attacks the instrument as if it were the size of a guitar, drawing a breathtaking range of sound and nuance, not to mention impossible counter-rhythms and kick-ass bass lines, from this near–piano-size assemblage of wood and steel. After you get over your astonishment at his technique—can one person really do all that on a harp?—you can begin to savor his compositional skills. Supportive cameos from guitarist John Scofield and vibist Joe Locke. (MM)

Galactic Ya-Ka-May (ANTI-)

Ya-ka-may, or yakamein, is an odd, quasi-Asian Afro-Orlenian mystery dish, made with meat, noodles, green onions, hard-boiled eggs, soy sauce, hot sauce and MSG. By that definition, Galactic’s latest album is perfectly titled. The New Orleans jazz-funk band has cooked up a cohesive and delicious but weird record that highlights a funky assortment of notables from the world’s most music-loving city. Songs feature venerable greats like Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas; active and awesome acts like the Rebirth Brass Band and Walter "Wolfman" Washington; and "sissy" bounce (the city’s unique style of hip-hop, as performed by homosexuals and transvestites) stars like Katey Red, Sissy Nobby and Big Freedia—all threaded together with a Galactic sound bed. This album, clocking in at 41 short minutes, demonstrates the magical things that can happen when a city embraces music and its fellow musicians. (JCC)

Aloha Home Acres (Polyvinyl)

"Celestial" and "ethereal" are words usually draped over the gentle indie songs of Aloha. But Home Acres, the band’s seventh release, picks up the tempo and shakes off some of the shimmer. Boiling drum work saves this disc from preciousness, and unexpected chord choices preserve the freshness. Singer Tony Cavallario remains as mild as ever, and there are some nose-wrinkling lyrical clichés in play. Still, there’s a hint of urgency this time around that adds enough of the right kind of flavor. (MD)

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