Botany 5 mellow out on tour with the ambient sound.
LISTINGS: GLASGOW 65 EDINBURGH 66
:about ' chilling
Forget your normal sweaty hands-in—the-air rave experience.
Join Craig McLean and mellow out with the ambient Botany 5.
It‘s like this: the mood is low. the lights are down. the feeling is ambient; the ballad is the thing. Contrary to popular belief, this is not dance music. Not dance as is conventionally conceived. anyway. No frenzy. no mania. no arms raised to the hangar‘s vaulted ceiling at an all-night rave extravaganza. The music of Botany Sis quietly celebratory. modestly pulsing, or even delicately textured. If. for example, The Cowboy Junkies swapped their lone Calrec Soundfield Ambisonic microphone for art-of-the-state sampler technology, Botany 5 would at least have a Canadian equivalent. As it is. the Edinburgh trio are out there all on their lonesome. Says lead Botanist Gordon Kerr. ‘There‘s not a lot of music in it. It‘s hypnotic.‘ In the club culture frame of things. Botany 5 are quite possibly unique.
‘We‘re not deliberately trying to do anything.‘
? promises Kerr of a sound most glibly characterised as the Blue Nile in Nike trainers. ‘lt‘s our musical tastes coming out. and it just so happens that right now it‘s quite fashionable to be into ambient house. But our album was finished last November — music‘s been coming our way all the time. I knew it would. and it‘s getting closer and closer all the time. Thing is, I like to experiment. I‘ve got an interest in fashion and design and that focuses my musical direction on things that are happening currently.‘
Kerr‘s preoccupation with style and taste and doing it right are hard to miss. His flat in Edinburgh — purchased with a little help from the record company that likes to say ‘Yo!. here‘s loads
of dosh in advance’ (that‘s Virgin) — is as bare‘and stark as his music. All around. visually and aurally. Botanyville is heavy on minimalism. negligible on clutter. As that debut album. produced by famed Blue Nile producer Callum Malcolm. is at pains to impress upon us, we are most definitely talking chill out, not freak out.
‘The album issuper-mellow. lt‘s pure album. It‘s not dance music. It is dance music. but it‘s slowed down and it‘s drifted out a lot and it‘s got a lot of space in it. I‘ve always been into Brian Eno and the like. We‘ve just done an ambient mix ofa track
‘ which is brilliant. I think it‘s the best thing we‘ve
64 The List 19 April — 2 May 1991
A short piece
The talk is littered with references to Eno. Tangerine Dream. Todd Rundgren and general nods in the direction of that spurious genre beloved of mid-70s burnt-out cases. New Age. This is decidedly dodgy territory and not. ordinarily. the stuffthat up—to-the-minute ﬂoor fillers are made of. Botany 5. though. pitch their lot in with the likes of the rain-sodden haze ofTalk Talk‘s Spirit ()fljden. The atmosphere — one of
trance-like drifting from the straight and musically
narrow— is ofone. long. ambient trip.
This stands in stark relief to their pre-deal days. Back then Botany 5 were The Botany 500. and their independent single ‘Bully Beef‘ was busy indie funk at its most ambitioust un-ambient. Or as an even more telling gauge ofthe gulfofyears. wise up to the feelin‘ groovy laid back pose of imminent second Virgin single. ‘Nature Boy‘ (following their first single. ‘l-ove Bomb‘. by some months. due. apparently. to the record company‘s tardiness in deciding which track to release as the follow-up). Compare and contrast the track with its earlier incarnation as a chunky free-for-all on an ancient demo (Kerr dismisses such tracks as ‘that rock stuff‘). Clearly. as he readin admits. Botany 5 and Gordon Kerr have mellowified.
‘A lot of it‘s got to do with lifestyle. When that demo was done. I was on the dole. boozing away. pissed off at being on the dole for nine years. My life just suddenly ﬂipped round. Look at my house! I‘ve got a studio next door! I‘d never had any money in my whole life.‘
That‘s not all that‘s changed. Since signing last year. Kerr's partner Dave Galbraith has left the group after his attempts to take a greater share of the songwriting duties didn‘t work out. ‘Partly it
Gordon Kerr of Botany Five l
was my ego I suppose.‘ Kerr concedes. Now the group line-up is completed by Jason Robertson on guitar and Steven Christie on keyboards. More recently. Botany 5 split with their management. leaving Kerr to cope with all the day-to-day mechanical chores ofbeing in and running a band. And on top ofall that. there‘s the problem of the wonga: ‘We are in a bad state. Not musically. but financially. Financially we ilfL‘_/ll(‘/\'t’(1. We‘ve absolutely no money at all. I can‘t do anything.‘
This is not totally true. In the run~up to the release ofthe single. Botany 5 are taking their meandering vibe on a short Scottish club tour. Originally these dates were to have straddled a support slot on The Orb‘s English tour. but. again for financial reasons. the band had to turn down the offer. ‘That would have been right up our street. It would have been our audience that would have been there. Thing is. last year we were offered tours with Adamski and Dec—Ute. Things come up all the time.‘ The hope is for a similar calibre of tour supports round the album‘s release two or three months hence.
In the meantime. here‘s their own headlining tour-ette. including an appearance at the Tunnel with Zulu Syndicate in attendance. ‘Thc stuff that we do live is totally different from the album. It‘s a remixed sound. And we‘re doing a light show and DJs too - we‘re doing it so we can get to young . people and have a laugh. j
"There‘s no way we could tour doing our album. ‘cos it‘s so slow and moody. It‘d be impossible to gointoaclub and dothat!‘ l
Chill out with Botany 5 at ( ‘alton Studios, j Edinburgh on 26 April. and The Tunnel. Glasgow on 25 May.