MA: Listen, I’m weird, I know it. I like “weird” music, as some may say. I enjoy anything that’s calming, atmospheric, psychedelic, you get the gist. I don’t know where I was when I first heard of Mort Garson’s Mother Earth’s Plantasia, but I was recently reminded by my friends. It started off with my good friend Dylan and I listening to some album by a 1970s Russian drummer, then stumbling onto this album completely composed for plants. It must have struck a melody within our mitochondria (that’s a cell we share with plants, right?) because we haven’t stopped bumping it since then. The crowd pleaser off the album is “Ode to an African Violet,” while “Plantasia” is a classic opener if you want a little introduction to the album.
JL: When Mahnoor mentioned the ludicrous concept of plant music that allegedly helps our green friends grow, I was simultaneously amazed and baffled. Doing some extensive research (a.k.a. reading a single NPR article) revealed to me the strange backstory of Mort Garson’s 1976 instrumental record Mother Earth’s Plantasia. Using only a Moog synthesizer (at the time, synthesizers were the size of large wardrobes with a copious amount of dials, wires and piano keys), Garson composed the 10-track LP that was meant not to soothe people or put a new twist on the blossoming electronic music scene, but to assist in the growth of plants. “Studies” from The Secret Life of Plants book inspired Garson to cook up this electronic oddity. The album was only sold in one store in Los Angeles or came free with a Simmons mattress bought from Sears. Garson took the phrase “You’ve probably never heard of this artist” to a whole new level.
The album begins with “Plantasia,” and sets the mood immediately. An up-tempo electronic organ lays down the pace as distant Sgt. Peppers-esque “flutes” give way to a small simulated brass orchestra. I can only describe the song as cute, and something you’d hear in the beginning of an alternatively-soundtracked Mr. Rogers episode.
“Symphony of a Spider Plant” follows up the opening track. The building electronic staccatos and slightly dramatic “string” section must genuinely strike some uneasy adventure into the spider plants listening in to Gorson’s creation. The track is akin to a more retro version of a song you’d hear in a perilous portion of a Pokemon game.
“Baby’s Tears Blues” is truly blues-y. A slow rocking tempo accompanied by some melancholy, spaced-out organ made me unintentionally nod my head slowly to its beat. It is efinitely a personal standout to me for how it crafts an unmistakably recognizable blues sound with a ’70s synthesizer.
“Ode to an African Violet” is dirty and very funky. A groovy, rumbling bassline is interrupted with the occasional high-pitched electronic whistle like something is crying for help. Very atmospheric. “Concerto for Philodendron & Pothos,” while providing many layers of rapid tonal notes, was drab and a bit of a snoozer. I would not like to grow to this song if I was in a philodendron’s shoes.
“Rhapsody in Green” is oddly sad. Its use of minor chords evokes feelings of being lonely and excessive self-contemplation. Gentle sci-fi sounds are sprinkled in to provide some happiness to a somber track. “Swingin’ Spathiphyllums” is a head-bopper and one of the danciest songs on the record. A catchy and simple drum beat lays the foundation as a joyful Nintendo-type piano riff repeats itself to get your limbs (or leaves, if you’re a plant) moving.
“You Don’t Have to Walk a Begonia” with its bouncy beat puts me in the shoes of a hiker traversing a lightly covered forest that’s almost at the summit of a mountain. I love its adventurous and chippy sound. “A Mellow Mood for Maidenhair” is a prime example of a free-flowing song that fits well into a mellow and breezy summer evening. Nothing too flashy.
Last is a song with the most iconic title I’ve come across this decade: “Music to Soothe the Savage Snake Plant.” Its low, inquisitive-sounding notes and constantly shifting whine with hints of Arabian-style flutes could absolutely charm the savage flora into peace. A fitting ending to this amazing sonic adventure of a record.
I’ve had an affinity for obscure electronic music for years, and Mother Earth’s Plantasia satisfied my niche interest like few others have. I unironically highly recommend this Moog-defined record to anyone craving something truly “weird.” You’ll find that only the LP’s concept is strange. The music is actually quite charming and has a cohesive flow.
Well done, Mr. Garson. I’ll play this to my succulent, Grace, and see if it works out.
You (and your plants) will not be disappointed.