Man oh man. An avalanche of new releases in the past few weeks. There are new albums from friends, from known artists, from unknown artists who ask me to review their work. I simply can’t keep up, so I hope you’ll excuse some outdated reviews. But there would be no excuse for me to not post anything about this one (and I promise, this was the last title-related wordplay). This one is from friends, which is always a double everything – anticipation, enjoyment, as well as pressure – gotta remain objective and not let your personal sympathy get in the way of your critical approach. Ha-ha. Did I just really write this? After all, I’m not a freakin’ critic, I’m just your average music fan, and as this average music fan I really freakin’ liked this release. I could just stop here (and maybe should have), because the feelings I experienced when listening to No Excuse are pretty hard to put into words. Y’know, because they are feelings. And this really is the best compliment – when the music doesn’t leave you cold, it means a lot. The new Botany Bay mini-album (6 original tracks + 5 remixes of the single “A Better Way”) is new in many ways – not only because Stefanie Mühr is the new vocalist (joining the project’s founder Stephan Kleinert), but the sound itself has that new fresh feel to it. Don’t worry, the sweet darkness and lyrical depth that we love Botany Bay for are still there, but No Excuse emanates some new energy, the kind that doesn’t come from darkness, as in project’s previous works, but represents the light that co-exists with this darkness in a yin-yang perfection. It also may seem to be the farthest from the “trip-hop” style, especially the opening title track – an upbeat pop song which greatly showcases Stefanie Mühr‘s powerful singing abilities. But listen to the album carefully, and you’ll find everything that you usually look for in trip-hop music – “A Better Way” smoothly slides on that rolling beat+piano combination reminiscent of the early Massive Attack, playful “Your Dairy” could easily be included in the same compilation with Morcheeba, and my instant favorite, engrossing “How Much Can You Take?” is so tastefully seasoned with various electronica elements and topped off with such knock-out piano finale that even the most hardcore trip-hop fans should be satisfied. But this is what’s great about Botany Bay – respecting the genres, they don’t really care about sticking to any of them. They make music they love, and they love doing it. This is why there are truly un-classifiable songs like voice/piano dialog “Oh, Robbie!” (which undoubtedly sounds fantastic live) or 90’s techno-inspired (and whoever knows me would understand that I mean this as a compliment) “How Am I To Know?”
And of course I should say a few words about the remixes. Hand-picked by Stephan and Stefanie from numerous submissions for their remix contest, they contribute greatly to the whole listening experience (and that new energy vibe that I was talking about earlier) as well as open up new sides of Botany Bay‘s music. Fantohm kicks it off with a fist-pumping dance remix, which I didn’t care much for at first but now actually do pump my actual fist to. KAVver. (whose original works are in regular rotation on our radio) always amazes me with his ability to bring a unique twist into other people’s work and make it sound like a completely new piece and this remix is no exception – what is happening on the last minute of it I’m not even gonna try to describe. And Miami Butchers Orchestral Remix is an unexpectedly soft lounge take on the song, a very pleasant finish to a wonderful new start.
As a new tradition I’m not rating EP’s, saving all the stars for the much-awaited full-length.
R.I.Y.L. Morcheeba, Massive Attack – “Hymn Of The Big Wheel”, shadows in candlelight
personal favs: “How Much Can You Take?”, “A Better Way”, “A Better Way (KAVver. remix)”
I wanted to embed a player here, but Bandcamp only does iframe now which is (sadly) not supported by WordPress. But you can go here and preview the whole thing, which would most likely make you want to buy it either in digital format or an an actual CD accompanied by a beautiful booklet.