The Allegorist’s debut album Botanical Utopia, released on the Kraak record label on June 27, 2016, is unusual for electronic dance music. It’s not the album’s deep, downtempo house beats that sets the Allegorist apart from other artists in the genre. There are plenty of chilled-out house music producers. It’s the haunting and, well, unintelligible singing that’s so memorable about Botanical Utopia.
According to the artist, the vocals are in the “fictional majestic Mondoneoh language.” My curiosity aroused, I researched this mysterious Mondoneoh, but found nothing. I’m therefore assuming the Allegorist invented the language for the album, or appropriated it from some obscure source not easily Googled.
Either way, it is a creative approach to music making, and Botanical Utopia is one of the more cutting edge albums I’ve heard this year. The singing sounds like rhythmic tribal chanting, which the artist explains is meant to “connect all nations and honour all our ancestors.” It can be repetitive, but dance music is usually repetitive, loopy, and rarely as avant-garde, as it is here.
“Floating Mantra” opens the album with a catchy synth-pop beat and chanting. One of the deepest and grooviest cuts on Botanical Utopia is “Aurora Borealis,” a dark and brooding string-heavy track with a hypnotic, subtle house beat. When the Mondoneoh chanting emerges, the track becomes pure cinematic house music. “Alaskan Malamute” begins with a terrifyingly cold arctic wind blowing over more of the dramatic strings and a downtempo breakbeat. The beat slowly transforms into a pounding, spine-tingling electro banger.
There’re a few deep and dark house songs like “Ragged Traveler,” but the most interesting track here is the album’s final cut “Desert Walks,” an experimental ambient opus that sounds like something from a David Lynch soundtrack. The Allegorist’s more dance-oriented tracks are a catchy version of nu-disco, but I prefer the experimental stuff, with minimal house beats, so the listener can kick back and blast off on a mental journey to another planet.
Botanical Utopia is too dramatic a for daily listening, and too experimental for most nightclubs, but after a few listens it started to grow on me. These sounds would fit well into a sci-fi movie soundtrack, and would also suit Montreal’s Mutek electronic music festival. In fact, the Allegorist reminds me of one of the avant-garde performers at this year’s Mutek: Aïsha Devi. The production on Botanical Utopia is quite impressive for a debut album, and I’m interested to hear more of the Allegorist and the “majestic” Mondoneoh language.
Written by Rob Coles
*edited by Danielle Kenedy