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Shakatura: Galactivation

By Derk Richardson


A masterful manipulator of synthesizers, samplers, and loops, San Francisco's Shakatura employs the kind of relentless dance beats that drive ravers into ecstatic trances. But he slows them down to a sensual chill-out pace so that his grooves pulsate rather than pound. His music nonetheless insinuates itself into muscle and sinew, and although listeners are unlikely to break a sweat succumbing to the seductive sway of these 10 tracks (two brand new, the rest from previous releases), this definitely qualifies as body music.

A down-tempo DJ who's as familiar with the Grateful Dead as he is schooled in the ways of house music and hip-hop, Shakatura, a.k.a. Galen Butler, can match quick cuts and segues with the best dance-floor maestros, but he is also a psychedelic space traveler in the tradition of Pink Floyd. His artistic goal seems to be a balance of those two impulses, and Galactivation's 71 trippy minutes prove him successful as he layers lots of electronic effects—bleeps, echoes, swooshes, programmed drums, ambient atmospherics, ominously unidentifiable deep rumbles, phasing across the soundstage—and acoustic instrumental sounds (notably voice, hand percussion, and flute) into mesmerizing textures.

Although the basic rhythms verge on the monotonous at times, the overall effect of Shakatura's Galactivation is dreamlike, demanding a certain amount of rapid-ear movement and triggering the pleasant sensation of what jazz great Ornette Coleman once called "dancing in your head."

Contributing Editor Derk Richardson writes about popular culture for Yoga Journal, Acoustic Guitar magazine, and SFGate ( He lives in Oakland, California.

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