In 1976 composer Mort Garson set aside session work and picked up a Moog synth to make an album like no other. Playful, kooky and completely magical, Mother Earth’s Plantasia is a soothing selection of tracks for the listening pleasure of the often under-appreciated houseplant.
Thanks to Garson, no spider plant is left to languish in silence on a dusty windowsill. Plantasia’s electronic tunes serenade the potted shrub and sing into the photosynthesising cells of each green leaf. In sense maybe more than sound, the album bridges the Maggot Brain, slow psychedelia of Funkadelic and the meditative electronics of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. Sonically, it has a childlike quality all of its own.
Garson was one of many to be drawn to the quirky philosophy of The Secret Life of Plants. An unofficial occult gardening handbook, this 1973 publication proposes that plants are psychic. You heard right: hyper-sensitive, intuitive organisms, they are as adept at predicting the future as they are tapping into our innermost thoughts. Plus they love a good tune. It’s a leaf-felt desire that Mort Garson was more than happy to indulge. Now Sacred Bones are pulling the composer’s efforts back into the light, reissuing Mother Earth’s Plantasia and bringing its synth-singing delights to a new generation of listeners, herbs and humans alike.
Harsh critics will call Plantasia glorified elevator music. It bubbles in the background, making no great mark on any environment with its soft, bloopy sounds. Sure, it’s got a cute narrative, but isn’t each track just a delicate and whirly deja vu of the last? Doesn’t the whole album slip so easily into vague memory? Garson could tinker on that Moog for decades to the same spacey, soothing effect. Houseplants everywhere can stop shaking angrily at their roots though, as listeners more sensitive to Garson’s creation will hear an album with much more to give.
Plantasia is pure sonic salve, a relaxing balm of a record, but it’s far from trivial. Sci-fi skeptics will say technology is the antithesis of nature, but this album says otherwise. Dealing in optimism and seeking harmony, Mort Garson decided there was no instrument better suited to communicating with mother nature than music technology incarnate – the Moog synthesiser. It’s a paradox that makes Plantasia special. Feed the flora futuristic sounds and watch them grow. Nearly 50 years later and the relationship between virtual living and the world outside the four walls is feeling a little unbalanced. Thankfully Mother Earth’s Plantasia has been unearthed to remind us that fresh air and sunlight feels good. Planted into a generation dried up on blue screens and thirsty for greenery, Garson’s strange album will very likely bloom anew.
Reissued: 21st June 2019, Sacred Bones