Opinion, Reviews

Mort Garson’s last masterpiece ­— exploring “Plantasia”

By Louie Sharp/For the Muleskinner

One of the most unlikely success stories in music history is that of Mort Garson’s 1976 Moog masterpiece “Mother Earth’s Plantasia.”

“Plantasia” was the last release by Garson, and it followed an eclectic stream of ambient synthesizer experiments based on such wildly different ideas as sensuality, the Zodiac, the musical “Hair,” and even Satanic worship services. No matter what Garson was focusing on, he was effortlessly able to build these worlds and place the listener right in the thick of them. “Plantasia” is no exception.

Sub-titled as “Music for plants and the people who love them,” the record was originally intended to foster growth for the plants at the Los Angeles store Mother Earth. It even eschewed a traditional release and was instead handed out to anyone who purchased a plant from the store. This meant that the record never really took off in the mainstream, but thanks to an incredible cult following and the magic of YouTube’s recommendation system, the album has exploded in the past few years.

I’m not going to claim that “Plantasia” is a perfect record. The production could be a bit cleaner and it definitely sounds slightly dated. But the incredible thing about the record, much like the Violent Femme’s self-titled debut, is that the decade it sounds like is actually years after its release. Despite this record coming out in 1976, I could easily see any of these tracks fitting in on an SNES RPG soundtrack, and I think fans of David Wise’s work for the “Donkey Kong Country” series will find a lot to enjoy in these cuts.

There’s a warmth and a vitality to “Plantasia” that makes me hesitate to use the word “ambient” to describe it. It’s purely instrumental and was intended more for plants to listen to than people, but despite all that, its energy demands attention. In the same way, the record was intended to make plants grow, it manages to help the listener grow as well. With the exception of “Long Season” by the Japanese group Fishmans, I can’t think of an album as inspiring or as able to make the listener just feel good as “Plantasia.”

I can’t think of a better way to spend Earth Day this year than soaking up the sun, listening to “Plantasia” and letting myself grow.

9/10 – A true classic and an experience all avid music listeners should have.

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