BOTANY, Fusebox Festival Hub
With only a handful of releases to his credit, Texas native Spencer Stephenson has covered a vast, impressive array of musical ground with his work as Botany. Integrating live instrumentation and dusty samples, his compositional techniques are informed by hip-hop and beat-heavy electronic music, but they reference spiritual jazz, psychedelic folk, ambient, and numerous other styles. His work varies from more rhythmic, pulsating tracks to free-flowing washes of sound, but it’s always conscious, uplifting, and organic. Originally from northern Texas, Stephenson started experimenting with music production as a teenager, inspired by Four Tet, Madlib, J Dilla, and others. He began sharing his music online in 2008, and his first EP, Feeling Today, was released by Austin-based Western Vinyl in 2010. A bit more poppy than some of his later releases, the recording featured vocalist Ashley Rathburn. Botany remixed artists such as Ryat and Cuushe and produced a track on Lushlife’s 2012 album, Plateau Vision. After relocating to a farm outside Austin, Stephenson recorded his full-length debut, Lava Diviner (Truestory), which appeared in 2013. Dimming Awe, the Light Is Raw, the most hip-hop-oriented Botany release to date, appeared in 2015 as a limited LP; guests included rapper Milo and Leaving Records founder Matthewdavid. In 2016, Botany released Deepak Verbera, a surprising excursion into cosmic music and free jazz, channeling artists such as Alice Coltrane and Popol Vuh. Just three months later, Stephenson issued a batch of instrumentals titled Raw Light II, and in 2018, released a collaborative album with Philadelphia rapper Lushlife under the name The Skull Eclipses that included guest features from Open Mike Eagle, as well as members of Shabazz Palaces, and Dirty Projectors. The duo performed at the legendary weekly showcase in LA, Low End Theory, before the event was discontinued last August.