Botany, FEELING TODAY EP : Album Review

Feeling Today EP

tACKY Grade: 8.5

1. Feeling Today
2. Minnow Theme
3. Waterparker
4. Bennefactress
5. Agave

There are certain times where the chillwave “movement”, and electro-pop in general, starts to feel stagnant and unimpressive, like the bands that call themselves proprietors of the genre become complacent and settle for putting out the same old thing in a shiny new package. When it’s at its blandest, though, it seems like you always come across a dazzling unheralded artist that takes the sound and style to a whole new level and does so with a bang. Even though this summer has given us a few good albums from the likes of Washed Out and Memory Tapes, those were for the most part just really well-executed continuances from bands we already knew, and knew well. Tuesday, however, brought us a brand spanking new EP from a brand spanking new artist, Botany. This is the one release of the year in electropop music that will undoubtedly shake off the cobwebs and brush away the thin layer of stale dust to bring you right back to the first time you heard the distinct sound of backwards tape loops and spaced-out synthesizers.

Botany, a moniker for Texas-based Spencer Stephenson, doesn’t need a full-length album to be groundbreaking, doesn’t need 12 tracks to show he’s got the talent, imagination, know-how, and unique identity to be among the best of his peers. Instead, his first release to the world is a five-track (six if you include the vinyl-only bonus track “Glasshouse”) EP that will lead into his debut full-length LP. Feeling Today compiles years and years of assembled samples into one incredibly personal, euphoric, and fulfilling sphere of color and flavor. Texturally, it is on par with some of work of the best current artists in that regard – the Books, Here We Go Magic, and Memory Cassette to name a few. The entire EP has a fullness to it that is mind-blowing, heart-melting, and soul-stirring. There is an organized chaos of instruments and samples all woven together to create one intertwined, unified, and fluid work of art. It amalgamates the impersonal and the personal to forge something emotional and spiritual, brings together Stephenson’s personal past and musical present to craft a view of the future of sound.

All five songs are tremendous, but none more outstanding than the third “Waterparker”. If you blink for a second, you’ll surely miss one of the hundreds of lissom and impatient details in its ever-shifting landscape. In fact, you’ll probably miss several anyway and need a couple more listens to really catch everything. Imagine looking at a mansion in which every window is continually opening and closing, and each one provides you a view of only one room. If you want to know everything taking place inside at any one moment, you need to be able to see all sides of the house at once, need a photographic memory and split-second recall of those images, and need to understand the way each of those fragments fits into the whole. Or, you could just freeze that moment in time until you can grasp everything that is going on. This is the only conceivable way to understand the beauty of “Waterparker” and the EP as a whole – through the careful, repetitive study of multiple listens.

I continue to ask myself with each revisiting of Feeling Today if I can ever remember hearing anything quite like it; anything with the complexity, the ability to blend artistry and enjoyability, the texture and the fullness. Sure, there have been others that embodied pieces of this equation in the psychedelic electropop field, but I cannot remember any artist that so thoroughly addressed all of those key points. The closest one that comes to mind is A Sunny Day in Glasgow, and specifically Scribble Mural Comic Journal, but even they seem too inwardly-focused and consumed with the art of concept to fully communicate with the listener at times. I can’t wait for everything that is to come from Botany, but this EP will keep me busy until that comes along. Get this, and get it right away. And make sure you pick it up on vinyl to get that extra track!

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