Portal Orphanage is the missing link between two 2020 Botany releases. Billed as a “postscript” to End the Summertime F(or)ever, the EP also uses the same stack of 45s as Fourteen 45 Tails ~ although of course the middle parts of the records are used. The press release states that this may be the last we hear from the artist for a while, at least under this moniker; thankfully, there’s no indication that he’s tired of making music.
The new release is also less happy than the last, save for the opening track and lead single “Times.” A bevy of bells and beats greets the listener as the samples begin accumulating. One might call this the last burst of ebullience before reality sets in ~ or at least what one perceives as reality. We’ve all been through the wringer this past year, enough to take the glitter and face paint from our skin. And yet, the simple act of making music ~ especially music this precise ~ reaffirms our faith in the creative spirit.
After this opening, the rest of the album unfolds as a suite, with most songs folding into the next, nearly excised from the first propulsive jolt. The tempos slow as the notes grow low. A complete stop in “No Refuge in the Past” is as jarring as a power outage, perhaps an ironic commentary on the embrace of nostalgia during the pandemic, paired with the fact that Botany lives in the realm of nostalgia, playing old 45s and hoping to hear new things. We love the description of his music as “papier-mâché’d,” and wish we’d thought of it first. A memory, borne on an old 45, bubbles to the surface. Time folds in on itself.
“in This Community” restores the beat, which carries through the softer, surprisingly pastoral “F*ck This Whole Day.” The implication is that one’s reaction need not be one of anger, but of acceptance; let’s write this day off and move on to the next. But what is the next? At this point, nobody knows, which is where Botany lands, too resigned to dream but too optimistic to leave listeners on a dour note. The phrase “we can change things” wafts through the closer, implying that the future, as out of control as it may seem, is still in our hands. (Richard Allen)