Spencer Stevenson released his debut 45 in 2010, but the ensuing years have been well spent. Lava Diviner (Truestory) is an amplification of themes introduced on Feeling Today, and enriches the Botany sound.
Even as a child, Stevenson was interested in sampling, toying with a Casio and cassette player. “What do you want to do with your life?” a father asks his son in a famous Twisted Sister video. If this were Stevenson, he’d reply, “I want to make beats!” On Lava Diviner (Truestory), the sounds of his past are mingled with those of his present, creating a contemporary mix. The Botany process of “collecting artifacts” is akin to that of scrapbooking. Each sample is either the best segment of, or a metaphor for, a cherished release. Other reviewers have noted similarities to artists such as Caribou and Four Tet, but Botany only sounds like them some of the time. Teebs is a clear aural touchstone, while Roger Dean is cited as a visual reference ~ and yes, that means Yes. A loose concept involving a volcano and a religious sect is largely dispensable, although one imagines Dean painting a pterodactyl on an alternate cover.
While the percussion is prime, added instruments rise above the beats: bells, guitars, “violin playing roommates”. This produces a three-dimensional effect of horizontal and vertical layers. Dialogue samples, guest vocals, and turntablist additions abound. At times, it seems like an old movie is playing, or an ancestor has returned from the dead and gone straight for the Victrola. These spectral visitors don’t want to scare anybody; they just want to dance. Alive or dead, we can all get along.
Like Night Shift’s Trespasser’s Guide to Nowhere, this album is best heard in its entirety. The seamless 44 minute mix seems tailor-made for tape (although available in vinyl, disc and digital forms). Those who want it to be a mix tape will have to make it themselves. But that’s the charm of the release. It tempts us to behave as we did once upon a time, before the digital age, when Casios and cassettes were the inspiration for creative children and fun-minded adults. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 29 October