Casual listeners prone to dipping in and out of an album: beware. ‘You’re robbing yourself if you cherry-pick,’ tweets imaginative electronica-peddler Botany, alias Spencer Stephenson. ‘It’s an album-album. One long, 45-min track.’
Yep. On Lava Diviner (Truestory), track divisions are arbitrary. ‘Quatic’ and ‘Small Keys’, for instance, come as a pair: tones emerging conveniently from found sounds washed over one another like paint, gently steered into a distinctive chordal mode; the tempo transition equally discreet. Throughout the LP, hip-hop breakbeats, field recordings and incidental melodies bubble through each other like as much agitated lava rising through the conceptual volcano which the album’s narrative describes.
You guessed it: the big, erupting volcano also symbolises Stephenson’s own process of creative release. So far, very ‘70s prog. But Lava Diviner harks much further back than this. What Stephenson calls its ‘epic and holy’ themes suggest a much older narrative tradition – while musically, it repeatedly draws on medieval musical technique, namely the drone and the Gregorian chant.
Chants, distorted speech, laughter, humming – there are, indeed, no ‘real’ words on the album. But it’s easy to understand Stephenson’s interest in the non-verbal, for Lava Diviner’s method is to empower obsolete materials with new relevance. The results are abstract, uncategorisable, and pulsating.