It’s hot. You wonder why you haven’t dissolved into ash by now, as you grasp the edge and emerge from the volcano. The smoke clears and reveals lush, rolling greenery below you, divided by a river of deep blue. You climb down and follow the river until you come to a grand waterfall. Behind the waterfall is an elegant door. As you turn the doorknob, a world of sound grows in your ears, and disappears when you let go. You open the door, and walk through . . .
Another contender for album of the year, and not a moment too soon! Dimming Awe, The Light Is Raw is the newest full-length by Botany, helmed by Austin producer Spencer Stephenson. So far, it’s been a great year for the expansion of electronic music; the ideas put forth are captivating and otherworldly, but this record may be one of the best examples of an artist refining those abstract visions with memorable songwriting.
The trump card of Stephenson is his ability to seamlessly combine seemingly disparate influences — wonky hip-hop, glistening psychedelic ambience, Eastern sampling — into danceable gems that mystify and perplex just as much as they groove. Fans of beat collagist gurus J Dilla and Madlib will discover treasures in this one, and Flying Lotus enthusiasts may fall in love with the similarly entrancing, ethereally rhythmic production.
The instrumentals are enough to write home about, but a flavorful selection of vocalists anchor the record’s psychedelia with tastes of intriguing lyricism. Chicago rapper Milo contributes loose verses to “Au Revoir” and “No Translator,” Matthewdavid adds a feather-light vocal melody to “Glow-Up,” and RYAT closes it all with crystalline bliss on “Monthiversary.” If you’re seeking hip-hop-tinged experimentalism, this album is for you.
– stasi (@stasisphere)