There’s a fine line between creating something unique and sporting a gimmick to cover a lack of good ideas.
There’s a fine line between hypnotizing minimalism and boring uninspired repetitivity.
BOTANIST are standing dangerously unsafe on these lines throughout this second album.
Thematically, BOTANIST explores the Verdant Realm, a world of plants, flowers and trees, the inhumane, flowery cosmos that where long before mankind and will cover the ruins we’ll leave behind in green. The seven slowly treacling, expanding songs are performed with two instruments only: drums and hammered dulcimer (there are some accordions, bass guitars and other instruments in there as well but it’s mainly hammered strings, skins and cymbals). Whereas the first album – comprising part I and II – seems to have been in a more black metal vein, this third section is – hence its title – mainly slow and brooding in composition.
The atmosphere of the album recalls somewhat of late ULVER, some of the more open pieces by GUAPO (especially their botanical meditations on the Twisted Stems EP), the atmospheres of MAUDLIN OF THE WELL and even more the percussion/hammered strings dynamics of SILENTIST, but far from the musical articulation and expressivity of the mentioned bands – and definitely nowhere near the timbral eclecticism of them.
My main problem with this album is not the formal minimalism of the many slow sections throughout this album. It’s that they hardly go anywhere. Treading water with uninspired, simple chord structures, the unexpected timbre of the instruments have a hard time to make up for the lack of musical ideas. Certain sections move slowly over a handful chords that sound so rudimentary, that you could just as well be listening to the musician practicing at home. I’m not expecting dense clusters of mindbending dissonance a la Penderecki or a melodic sensibility on par with Mozart or MAGMA. But the many minutes of not going anywhere in this album – a musical metaphor for the slow and relentlessly repetitive growth in a botanical garden, perhaps? – burdens the actually interesting sections of the album (and there are a few of those where shit gets going) to a level where I just can’t bear listening to this album from start to finish. The Botanist himself retells that the choice of hammered dulcimer came out of his origin as a drummer, and it is obvious that the music stems from a more rhythmical mindset than melodical, near martial at times. The chords follow the main beat quite slavishly.
Don’t get me wrong – the first three tracks on this album are quite alluring and evocative in their shimmering and mesmerizing atmospheres, and certain sections further on are beautiful. But from there it does not really go anywhere. Which is a shame, since theoretically, this is a deeply fascinating musical entity. The lyrics are beautiful, and the thematic lore behind it both interesting and quite unique. But the 68 minutes could easily have been trimmed down half an hour, not losing anything but gaining punch and relevance. The musical gems are lost – the forest unseen for all the trees, so to speak.
What is interesting is the second CD. This is a double album, where disc 2 consists of remixes and reinterpretations by allies of The Botanist, based on the main album’s drum tracks. Shimmering flowery glitch electronica, towering atmospheric post-metal, tree-hugging pagan black metal, acoustic steel-stringed sludge, et c. All in all unfortunately more interesting than the main album, a collection of disparate songs that still create a logical whole. Too bad that the allies eclipse the Botanist himself!
Disc 1: Doom In Bloom
Disc 2: Allies