By EW Staff
Updated October 17, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

GALACTIC, Ruckus Formerly an enjoyable but unremarkable N’awlins funk act, Galactic reinvent themselves on their fourth full-length, ”Ruckus.” Credit knob-twiddler Dan ”The Automator” Nakamura, the producer behind cult favorites like Dr. Octagon and the Gorillaz, for helping the sextet condense its sprawling live sound into 44 minutes of elegantly constructed instrumentals and muscular, modern soul — all coated with a frosty, trip-hop sheen. Galactic’s neoswamp grooves prove the Crescent City sound is no dusty museum piece.

VIDA BLUE, The Illustrated Band Phish keyboardist Page McConnell indulges his Miles Davis fetish on this second disc from his side project. Letting the tape run, Vida Blue (McConnell plus Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge and Funky Meters drummer Russell Batiste) jam with the Miami-based Spam Allstars and emerge with dopey Latin-jazz mush.

SEX MOB, Dime Grind Palace There’s nothing explicit about Sex Mob, but these downtown jazz vets conjure a mood of after-hours misbehaving with burlesque blues and loose-limbed grooves that stumble and stagger like an old wino. You’ll find hints of Basie (”Blue and Sentimental”) and Ellington (”Norbert’s Weiner”), but they’re fused with a rowdy attitude that will offend most purists. And that’s a good thing.

THE STRING CHEESE INCIDENT, Untying the Not) Never known for their songwriting skills or studio recordings, String Cheese deliver both on ”Not.” Producer Youth (Killing Joke) has updated their sound via electronic tweaks without burying the Americana touches that appeal to the band’s aging-hippie fans. Likewise, the psychedelic dance jams, stomping bluegrass riffs, and spiraling guitars never bully the earnest choruses. These hooks will stick with you longer than a contact high.