Checkered Past

Botanica is an underground supergroup of sorts, with Paul Wallfisch, keyboardist for New York City’s most critically acclaimed Klezmer band, Firewater, at the helm. Wallfisch is joined by the multi-talented Abby Travis (KMFDM, Abby Travis Foundation) on bass and Ivan Knight (of Stan Ridgeway’s band) on drums, while a parade of “guest stars,” including Daniel Ash (Bauhaus, Love & Rockets), Kid Congo Powers (Congo Norvell, Gun Club), Frankie Infante (Blondie), and Daniel Glass (Royal Crown Revue) add their own unique musical eclecticism to an album that nearly defies classification

One would not expect a flat out rock album from this group of musicians, and Malediction does not disappoint in that area: Botanica specialize in some seriously uncommercial music with a varied assortment of sounds that Wallfisch’s attributes to his “gypsy’s ear for collecting sonic souvenirs.” Whatever you want to call it, it’s a fairly potent brew. A bittersweet, woozy melody like “Beauty,” with its cloying essence of doomed romance mingling with the subtle ache of intangible loss should redefine what passes for lounge music. Even the titles — “True Crimes,” “Middle of the Night” — suggest misguided passions and minds haunted by things left unsaid. These are the songs meant to soundtrack late nights spent drinking scotch in dark clubs while smoking too many cigarettes. The albums best cut, “Fresher Hell,” is the kind of dark, spiritual song you might find yourself inadvertently humming after multiple listenings, making it the perfect song for crying after hard goodbyes. Botanica aim to cast a powerful spell, if you promise to go under it.

Checkered Past Records, 1456 North Dayton, Suite 295, Chicago, IL 60622

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