Mort Garson's wonderfully strange album of Moog compositions gets its first official rerelease since 1976.
Earlier this week, Brooklyn-based DJ Max Ravitz, performing under his best-known alias Patricia, performed an intimate set to a poncho-clad crowd in a small pavilion in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Steady rain merged hypnotically with the logarithmic wailing and white noise emanating from Ravitz’s Moog System 55, the hulking analog maze bathed in the soft spotlight of a plant lamp. It felt a bit like a cult gathering; graphic designers and wizened hippies on a journey towards spiritual enlightenment, or at least sharing a moment of quiet ecstasy before going their separate ways. Such is the power of Mort Garson’s 1976 album Mother Earth’s Plantasia, “warm earth music for plants and the people who love them,” which was celebrated at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden by Atlas Obscura and Sacred Bones—along with Patricia, an interactive installation of “Sonic Succulents,” and a Plantasia listening experience of “Phytophillic Technology in the Psychedelic Era.”
Garson’s album of Moog compositions was originally recorded as a promotional item for Mother Earth Plant Boutique on Los Angeles’s Melrose Avenue. Plantasia was hardly a Billboard hit, and it wasn’t overly successful as retail promo either—Melrose’s plant-loving hippies have long since been supplanted by Christian Audigier enthusiasts. But Plantasia has slowly morphed into a collector’s item; somehow worming its way out of basements, into stoners’ bedrooms, onto the decks of well-known DJs during intimate comedown sets, and eventually, onto YouTube. First pressings of Plantasia are so coveted, and the record’s revival so wonderfully mysterious in the age of streaming, there are even conspiracy theories about it. Some say copies were once stuffed into Simmons mattresses from Sears, though this method of distribution has never been confirmed.
Now—as in today, June 21st—we can all own a physical piece of Garson’s sweet, photosynthesizing magic. Plantasia has finally been reissued—on gorgeous green and black vinyl—for the first time thanks to Sacred Bones. As per the label’s website copy, “All vinyl copies come with seed paper download card—plant it and watch it sprout!”
While Garson’s electronic arrangement’s would have sounded futuristic in the ‘70s, it’s Plantasia’s ironic optimism that strikes us as radically different today. It’s the groovy sound of communal spirit; an invisible bridge between ‘70s flower children and the eco-conscious youth of today’s psychedelic renaissance, seeking enlightenment not through organized religion but states of cosmic wonder. (2019 also marks the anniversary of the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon Landing, which Garson actually soundtracked for live television transmissions.) Moog jams might not keep our flora and fauna from wilting on our rapidly warming planet, but surely forging connections with plant life has never been more vital.