Paul Wallfisch has careened around the world (probably in a drunken state, but who knows) to bring all manner of experiences to bear in his music, serving as the leader of the smart and decadent alternative rock band, Botanica. Whether through a great inheritance or a savvy ability to play the stock market, the singer/songwriter was able to travel the globe, journeying to lands as diverse as Indonesia, Finland, China, and Guinea; although Botanica is far from a worldbeat band, there is a distinct air of wry world-weariness and a cosmopolitan sophistication that infuses all its songs. Upon reentering the U.S., Wallfisch set up shop in Los Angeles where he recruited drummer Ivan Knight (Stan Ridgeway) and bassist/backing vocalist Abby Travis (Beck, Elastica, KMFDM); they named themselves Botanica after those mysterious little shops that stock strange spells and a myriad of religious artifacts. The album that resulted, Malediction, is chock-full of heavy-hitting guest stars: Daniel Ash, Kid Congo Powers, and Frankie Infante all put in appearances. (Powers has since become something of a Botanica regular, often appearing live with the group and singing the occasional lead vocal.) But this is really Wallfisch's game; his cigarette-laced voice, commanding keyboard and guitar playing, and foreboding lyrics are the definite focal points. Malediction shifts from dreamy, beautiful ballads to twisted, snarling rockers, making it a veritable encyclopedia of post-punk moodiness. It may be Botanica's first record, but Wallfisch and Knight had already released I Am Yours, an album that appeared in 1996 on the Acetate Records label, under the name Paul Wallfisch & His Band. The songwriter moved to New York City, where the core of Botanica changed to Oren Kaplan (Firewater) on guitar and the rhythm section of Matt Flynn and bassist Christian Bongers (drums and bass, respectively). They bring a powerful muscularity to the dark songs. Wallfisch is a very active fellow, lending his talents to a variety of projects including Tod A.'s klezmer/punk band Firewater and providing torch singer Sally Norvell with some expert ivory tinkling. He has produced tracks for Love and Rockets and Gene Loves Jezebel and collaborated with the likes of Friends of Dean Martinez and Stiv Bators. Botanica's music has been featured in the films Men Cry Bullets and the Takedown, as well as Greg Pritikin's Dummy (Wallfisch also provided the score), starring Milla Jovovich, Adrien Brody, and Illeana Douglas. A version of the band, with Jovovich singing, appears in the film as the Botanica Bulgar Ensemble. ~ Will Lerner

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