Do Savannnah

Empire of Sound: Savannah's Culture Vulture is the remedy for your boredom


Empire of Sound: Savannah's Culture Vulture is the remedy for your boredom

04 Mar 2016

Five out of five black voodoo stars | Favorite tracks: “Pedaling,” “Girls’ Night on Acid”


I’ll start this with a list: “Girls’ Night” is sweet; it’s strange; it’s driving; it’s mad; it’s experimental; it’s rock; it’s jazz; it’s Culture Vulture.

Culture Vulture – Nick Gilbert (trombone), Matt Pelton (drums) and James Webber (guitar) – has found a home in a Savannah music scene full of everything but what they are, yet they fit perfectly at a punk or hip hop show, or a house show, or anywhere on Congress Street. Their mass appeal is possibly a reaction to the pure talent and skill with which they weave a sonic universe unlike so many.

You certainly don’t have to be a fan of jazz to like Culture Vulture, but it does help.

If you’ve just skipped past this story and already watched the video above, you got a decent taste of what Culture Vulture is thanks to Do Savannah photographer and writer Adriana Iris Boatwright, and her Savannah Stopover video project.

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They echo the best tradition of jazz fusion, experimental math rock and the avant garde. They draw influence from a variety of places; the most notable are The Weather Report, Chick Corea, The Mars Volta and albums like Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew.”

Not to paint them into a proverbial box – and honestly, that’s a pretty sweet box I just painted – because they are creating music that defies expectations. Behind complex rhythmic and thematic structures, they dote on past musical ideas, glue together some new thoughts and pass it all off like it’s as easy to play as “Chopsticks.”

“Girls’ Night” is a six-track EP that sounds longer than it actually is due to the varying layers you venture through from start to finish. Throughout the album, themes are introduced, expanded on, beat up, abandoned and loved.

The most exciting aspect of this album lies in the unexpected routes it takes. After years of listening to music, studying it and playing it, you come to understand the basic mechanics. You can begin to pick out the natural progression of songs written with western music theory – the basis of most all of the music we listen to.

You begin to long for unpredictability; for something different. Culture Vulture delivers a fresh universe of sound from the hands (and mouth) of three of the most talented musicians Savannah has to offer.

Similar to the work on “Kind of Blue,” they are three musicians who have found a way to independently create something beautiful, while working in perfect harmony with their band mates. They have reached a balance of ego and selflessness in their song craft and execution.

Culture Vulture is creating music that is never boring, not even for a split second. You can’t predict where it will take you, what will happen or where you will end up. They exist in a world outside of the typical parameters of rock ‘n’ roll – and this is rock ‘n’ roll.  It’s a world that is esoteric in creation, but has broad appeal because, simply put, it’s easy to enjoy.  

The title track (sort of), “Girls’ Night on Acid,” opens with Webber pouring through a dazzling solo intro with nods to giants of jazz Django Rienhardt and John McLaughlin. In the second theme, or verse I suppose, we get a funky, driving rhythm and space for Gilbert to work some New Orleans-inspired melodies. This track boasts some of the more interesting and experimental changes, including the only vocalized section on the album.

“Pedaling” opens with a cacophony of sounds created at the beckoning of Pelton’s drum machine, which he uses in a live setting as well. Here we get a showcase of Pelton’s skill set, and it shines as one of the best openings on the album. The evolution of this song from beginning to end is a little adventure on its own; it encapsulates all the wonder and beauty of this album into a honed microcosm.  

I highly recommend catching a live Culture Vulture set. It shouldn’t be too hard, because they play frequently both in Savannah and in the region. In the meantime, crank this album whenever and enjoy the ride.

Culture Vulture is releasing “Girls’ Night,” on Bomb Shelter Records with a party March 5 at House of Strut.

Click here to read more about the show. 


Joshua Peacock is an online content producer for Savannah Morning News and a music columnist for Do Savannah. He studied playwriting and music at the University of Iowa. He thinks his opinion is ridiculous.