Butterflies, Zebras, and Moonbeam is an ambitious 2-disc set of moody downtempo tracks from Philadelphia band Nucultures. Nucultures is a project of lyricist/vocalist Ellie Perez, guitarist/producer Tim Motzer, and bassist/songwriter Barry Meehan.
The tracks on this CD are a solid collection of jazz-tinged vocal numbers. The tracks are primarily acoustic, but feature frequent use of loops, filtering and effects, giving the music a downtempo vibe.
Throughout the CD, there’s lots of interesting production work. The instrumentation starts with vocals, bass, guitar and keyboards, but is expanded with horns, strings and some more unusual touches, like tabla & cello. Drum machine, loops and effects are used with subtlety, adding trippy touches while keeping the focus on the live elements.
There are a lot of quirky production elements in the tracks, too, including: hard panned instruments that come out of one channel, like something from the early days of stereo; soft distorted voices that are buried in the mix, almost like a ham radio was playing in the other room; guitars echoed with dub-style effects; and recording noise that is accentuated instead of minimized.
While the CD is full of highlights, there are occasional signs that it may have been a stretch to fill two CDs. The track Lead to Gold, for example, puts straightforward love song lyrics to a moody backing track to not much effect; there’s a reason why song writers often put moody lyrics to more straightforward or upbeat music – it lets the lyrics sneak up on you.
Overall, the release is solid, with a lot of variety in the tracks, vocalists and instrumentation, and has a consistent downtempo vibe across the two-CD set. Butterflies, Zebras, and Moonbeam could be the perfect soundtrack for your next rainy day.
The CD appears to have limited distribution at this time. You can check it out at CDBaby.