Owa – Botany
Lava Diviner (Truestory)
45:00 min • Western Vinyl • October 29, 2013
Andrew Darley reviews
Spencer Stephenson is a electronic producer originating from Texas, who has taken the opportunity to make his debut album with a distinctive style and character. Adopting the name Botany, it’s clear from his first full-length release that he does not merely want to wrangle together a collection of songs he produced over time. Instead, his debut was created to be consumed as an entire piece, an experience. Explaining the impetus behind the record, Stephenson said, “I wanted to conjure that same headspace that artists like Roger Dean, and even Zdzislaw Beksinski project in their iconic paintings. I tried to evoke those grand, colourful, surreal landscapes that are mind-bending yet oddly comforting”.
The album started out as loose concept album around a religious sect who prays for a volcano to erupt that could potentially end humanity. However, by the time the album was complete, Stephenson realized that the abstract instrumental music he had made was more in tune with his own emotions and life than that of any concept or imagery. The album’s title Lava Diviner (Truestory) is a reference to the original idea but moreso refers to how he envisioned his first album as a volcano, “with years of emotion and musical ideas bubbling up to a cathartic release”.
This shift in how he frames the album for himself certainly translates on record. The album is packed with musical moods and motifs, which crosses several genres such as hip-hop, electronica, break beat and field recordings. Twelve songs weave and contrast various textures and temperaments across the album, that is both playful and engaging. The album opens with the juxtaposition of a synth line of trickling water with crashing drums and cymbals. These slip away into a hypnotic beat, vocal samples and handclaps of the opening ‘Comm.’. Stephenson is devisive in the way he layers his songs with acoustic and electronic elements to communicate feeling and emotion. Songs such as ‘Per-Eon’ are reminiscent of the aesthetic and ambiance that Boards of Canada achieved on their early work. Whilst ‘Simple Creatures’ features an electronic soundscape similar to the world Björk embarked on her album, Post.
Every composition is spacious, giving them room to breathe and figure themselves out for the listener. The desire for the album to feel like a story with a narrative for the listener is obvious in the way he blends songs together. The hip-hop beat that marks ‘Anchor’ is the perfect segue into the trippy atmosphere of ‘Owa’. There’s no question Botany’s debut contains several and divergent sounds, but it’s this approach that works in his favour. What could have sounded erratic and lacking in focus, Stephenson controls realising his vision of his album. The chants of Tibetan monks, string arrangements, tribal beats and fizzy synths throughout make this album a pleasure to listen to. Lava Diviner (Truestory) is the result of a producer and new artist going at his own pace.