[ALBUM REVIEW] 'Botanika' - Room Circle Collective
NOTE: This is the first segment of a two-part collaboration between ATR and all-girl Malaysian collective; Kekabumi! Stay tuned for a follow up interview that will be out soon!
Room Circle Collective’s “Botanika” is a local Malaysian collaboration compilation bringing together a diverse set of electronica artists - all worth checking out!
RELEASE DATE: 28 June 2020 GENRE: Electronica / Synthwave / Synthpop / Ambient / Experimental / R&B / Fuzz
Inspired by the likes of Japanese ambient pioneer Hiroshi Yoshimura’s “Green” (1986) and the whimsicality of Mort Garson’s “Plantasia” (1976); Botanika’s conceptualisation is based on presenting local narratives through the ambience and fuzz from the hidden tropics- different interpretations of a lush tropical soundscape that is uniquely Malaysian in all of its electronica and synth-drenched glory.
Staying true to their vision, Room Circle has successfully curated a one of a kind compilation that celebrates the diversity of local indie music-by bridging together different communities and unique sounds that truly showcase what the scene has to offer. Compilations are generally interesting to me because of its overall concept, and local music enthusiasts may very well find Botanika to feel like a piece of documented indie history- all in a single mix-tape.
The eclectic mix of tracks on the record feature artists; Krooktroupe, Dae Kim, cerikapak, Stemilyn, Stellar Dreams, JUKO, Leo Ari, Dizkopolis, Azlan Dawai and OJ Law. Room Circle’s curation of these local electronica artists is a fresh breath of air; it celebrates a homely blend of familiar names, new faces and surprising solo acts.
Personally, it’s interesting to find artists from mu-nest (see: http://www.mu-nest.com/) paired up with acts such as Leo Ari, the more cryptic identities of Krooktroupe and JUKO, as well as maestros OJ Law and Dizkopolis all on the same track list.
Botanika is a dreamy escape from the gloomy, hum-drum of cabin fever and into a world that seamlessly transports you from a river bank in second, and onto a sunset drive in the next. Ranging from lofi-folk, funk, indie pop and more, there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy!
Krooktroupe - “Greener from above"
Pulsating synths and disjointed acoustica, “Greener from above” makes for one interesting electro-folk track. Faris's wispy vocals reverberate softly through the loose melodies- it flirts listlessly by sounding echoey for a moment and slightly distorted the next.
The track emits serenity- subtly trance-like, the repetition is reminiscent of the twinkly jingles of a Nintendo DS loading screen, and the bleak monotony of a pendulum swing. The song begins to swell as the orchestration builds, flutes enter the atmosphere and the sounds of water droplets and nature turn this track into a little tiny rainforest. It’s a lazy lullaby, yet meaningful all the same.
2. Dae Kim - "Pilgrimage"
“Pilgrimage” is a light-hearted synthwave track that still packs a punch, in all of its minimalist glory. It’s reminiscent of his signature sounds, (see: Solace LP)- always ethereal and familiar like a heartbeat.
With a driving bass, twinkly synths and cue the minimal lead guitar riffs- Dae Kim manages to create yet another portal to a world where the harmonies are always lush, and the emotions run freely as the composition flows. Pilgrimage is testimony to Dae Kim’s mastery over ambience and pop.
3. Cerikapak - “Subang Drive”
Cerikapak paints a midnight mood, perfect for a “Subang Drive”, as it is aptly named. Deep bass, heavy beats and the odd pauses that are littered throughout the track, the occasional glitches paint a fun, textural feel.
With drawling, thematic synths that play in and out with ease, the chill/sleepy production will feel like a hazy memory of a long forgotten adventurous night out. Get lost in the drive, and let the bitcrushed chip-tune, and segments drenched in echoes take you far away.
4. Stemilyn - "Lactose"
A fiery little pop anthem- the moody chords that paint a melancholic soundscape. Stemilyn's voice + additional vocals // are layered masterfully to elevate the harmonies to swell together. The thematic and empowering composition is inspiring. It builds into an ascend that fades into a peaceful quiet
Dae Kim's twinkly synths paint a soft melody in the midst of the frenetic motion. Stemilyn sings about sadness, longing for someone we wish we could have. It's a repetitive song that acts a slow chant one would sing to one's self
5. Stellar Dream - “Sorrow”
The bold and haunting 80s keys/organ that grasp for your attention slide into an explosive intro. The escalating beats, feels almost action-driven, as though in a car chase movie scene. The retro progressions are addictive- urgently pulsating with every beat.
It’s an intense song that conveys a dystopian-like rage that’s repetitive with a purpose. The song dives into a keys solo that's funky, catchy and fun- sounding menacing in a way that’s attention grabbing. As soon as it starts, the song begins to drone out and the party, or depending on your persuasion- episode, suspends itself.
6. Leo Ari - “Sehembus Nafas, Selamanya”
The sensual drawl of Leo Ari is sure to be the first thing you notice on this song. The composition is easygoing, but retains its taste with the guitar riffs that echo off in the background. The soaring of Leo’s voice elevates the song and is full of reluctant, yet honest emotion
The dance breakdown is pure pop candy that’s super catchy and fun to listen to, and the layering of synths and beats end at the outro with a quiet bang. Whether its Leo’s vocals or the upbeat composition, there’s always something interesting going on that’s worth picking out.
7. JUKO - “Coming to Life”
“Coming to Life” is a fast-paced song that doesn't take any breaks- the moment it starts, you’re in for a ride. You’ll be hit with the sounds of the tabla accompanying Azrul’s signature drawl; it reminds me of the effervescence of The Voidz.
It’s a nonchalant song that isn't afraid to be a little funky and fun. The chorus is catchy, and an easy sing-a-long. The breakdown into a psychedelic, Bollywood-esque synth explosion is a highlight that makes the track stand out.
Social media links: https://soundcloud.com/juk0
8. Dizkopolis - “Work it out”
Dizkopolis’ “Work it out” is an absolute gem, and an instant classic. The funky bassline and retro vibes of a tv work-out video make it a hyper-fun dance number. The song then sways as the keys traverse through the song into a quiet break.
Froya’s voice is a treat to the ears, as she masterfully lures in listeners with her voice. I can guarantee you that it's both a cold, and formulated synth number, as it is fun and bright. The funky bass line, awesome synth progressions, lyrical guitar work and tasteful beats add to this retro vibe/melayang mood.
9. Azlan Dawai - “Mukadimah Terakhir”
“Mukadimah Terakhir” is the dark horse of the Botanika compilation. This experimental track is a treat- it's reminiscent of the density of IDM and the repetitive tinkering of distorted synths.
The synths are on a total freak out- only tied together by a drum beat looming in the background. If you’re a fan of effects and distortion galore, this track is a refreshing calculated clash of sound that acts as a palate cleanser from the pop of the previous tracks.
Social media links: https://www.facebook.com/azlan.dawai
10. OJ Law - “Dear Luna [Edit]”
OJ Law’s lullaby for a past you can't return to is a soaring, yet sombre tune. Irena Taib’s soft vocals add texture with her harmonies. The lyrics are easy to sing along to, and are memorable too. The twinkling keys and bass colour the song with a sunset hue, that just might make you smile
If you're looking for a song to end the day with, “Dear Luna” is the perfect outro - with sleepy vibes and a lo-fi feel to the production, it's designed to make you feel like missing a memory while it’s still happening.
300 copies of this CD were pressed and was made available at Fred Perry Malaysia store starting 20th June. Botanika also will be available at local selected record stores and distributors such as Teenage Head Records, Tala Records, Sputnik Recordz, Dolls Store, Tuju Cafe, PBUY Store, and Hungry Tapir. Part of the profit from Botanika sales will be handed out to an NGO called Kebun Kebun Bangsar.