Plantasia: A Sonic Fertilizer and Novelty Records

By Arthur Machado

It is the summer of 1976. You go to West Hollywood looking for a new asparagus fern to bring in some nature and liven up your small studio apartment. You drive down Melrose Avenue, in the heart of West Hollywood, and you stumble across Mother Earth, a charming plant nursery. As you get the newest addition to your home the store owner hands you a vinyl and a booklet as a gift, you’re the brand new owner of Mother Earth’s Plantasia, music specifically made for you and your new green friend!

The album is filled with Moog synthesizer symphonies and space age tunes that were advertised as a way to help your plants grow. Mort Garson’s only released work was one of the pioneers in ambient synthesizer music. In an era where synthesizers occupied half a studio, his simplistic compositions made for a charming bucolic experience, placing the listener in touch with the nature surrounding them. Each song features overlapping minimalistic arrangements, as the synth modulators compliment each other on every plant-inspired track.

The original vinyl came with an education booklet written by Mother Earth’s owners, where much like a sommelier knows what cheese to pair with each wine, the store owners paired each of the tracks to a group of houseplants they sold. Promising that the soothing tunes would assist with their growth and happiness. Following the bandwagon of the bestseller “The Secret Life Of Plants,” Plantasia had an esoteric aspect to it, the stoner-friendly album was a manner for you and your plants to be in tune with your spirits. 

The first time I listened to this album I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to C418’s Minecraft soundtrack and classic Nintendo tunes. Koji Kondo, Legend of Zelda’s most famous composer even cites this album as one of his core influences. Garson’s “Concerto For Philodendron And Pothos” has the exact same heavily delayed overlapping loops as Kondo’s famous “Zelda’s Lullaby,” the ethereal dreamlike atmosphere remains the same. 

Plantasia also draws influence from bossa nova in some of its tracks, the whimsical songs “Swingin’ Spathiphyllums” and “You Don’t Have to Walk a Begonia” are upbeat tunes that sound as they came out of atomic era futurist Brazil. Proving once more Garson’s expertise in the early electronic music field, as songs from different genres compliment each other’s themes and ambiance. 

The novelty and history of the record keep bringing me back for repeat listens. I simply love the ridiculous idea that a marketing scheme by a Los Angeles plant shop (and also very exclusively with the purchase of Simmons Mattresses in SoCal Sears) evolved into a cult album influencing electronic composers to this day. Fun ideas such as Mother Earth’s Plantasia become curious hidden gems, quirky lighthearted discoveries allowing for a quick escape of reality. 

The exclusivity of the vinyl ended last year when after multiple fan campaigns as Sacred Bones Records re-released the record. They remastered the original vinyl rips and made the songs available on digital and physical media once more, in the highest quality they’ve ever been. As a fun nod to the novelty nature of the first record the download code card is made of biodegradable paper and contains a variety of seeds into the paper. As you support Garson’s masterpiece and independent vinyl pressing plants by buying the album you can relieve 1976’s LA Plant Craze and jam with your own wallflowers.

Plantasia is a window into the past’s idealized version of a harmonious future we’ll never achieve. It is an easy listening dreamy experience that would be the perfect soundtrack to an hopelessly optimistic utopic project to the likes of Walt Disney’s EPCOT. This album has an unique upbeat vibe, and it’s guaranteed to leave it’s simplistic memories on loop in your brain. Grab your favorite floral friend and give this a listen, it may not scientifically make your plant happy as originally promised, but it will definitely leave you with a smile.