Mort Garson, “Journey to the Moon and Beyond”
By Ted Davis · July 24, 2023 Merch for this release:
Button/Pin/Patch, Vinyl Box Set, Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), Bag, T-Shirt/Shirt

Diving into ambient for the first time can be daunting. So many of the genre’s influential albums require patience and concentration. Even household names, like Brian Eno and Aphex Twin, have a tendency to make sonic art that is more challenging than it is approachable. For those looking to dip their toes into ambient waters for the first time, Mort Garson’s Moog-y work offers a perfect starting point. The late Canadian session musician-turned-modular synth innovator’s knack for verdant composition is far removed from the genre’s austere stereotypes.

Garson spent his life putting out music in relative obscurity, amassing a varied discography of recorded work that largely fell on unknowing ears. It wasn’t until the late 2010s, when a bootleg of his resplendent 1976 record Plantasia blew up on YouTube, that Garson finally located the attentive audience he deserved. After so many years of nonrecognition, that album earned a posthumous reissue from Sacred Bones, which helped appraise Garson as an unsung legend of forward-thinking synthesis. Journey to the Moon and Beyonda new archival release from that same Brooklyn label—is a collection of pieces Garson wrote for film, television, and advertisements. It highlights a navy-tinted side of his sound—similar to the one explored on 1971’s sinister Lucifer: Black Mass, but less fixated on the macabre. Here, the unshakable chipperness that helped make Plantasia a beloved cult favorite has been swapped for an essence of cartoonish esoterica.

It’s fitting that the rushing, carnivalesque “Moon Journey” was composed for a live broadcast of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing. But, in spite of its backstory, that cut is hardly the most celestial on the album. “Captain DJ Disco UFO (Pt II)’” is particularly trippy, centered on whirring arpeggiations and growly vocals about watching a spaceship spin. Opener “Zoos of The World” sounds like what might happen if a conductor put together an orchestra largely made up of theremin players. And the whirring “Three TV IDs” could practically pass for an outtake from a record on a contemporary left-field imprint like Hausu Mountain or Moon Glyph. Even the most overtly commercial compositions here—the various “Music For Advertising” installments—pack a gnarled, otherworldly punch. From front to back, the whole album is cast in an exuberant, wacky glow, the same one that might fall upon a psychedelic watering hole from a Thomas Pynchon novel.

Closer “Black Eye (End Credits)” basks in suave darkness, carried by smoky vocals and a loungey groove. It ends the record on a surprisingly earthly note that feels more suited for looking up at the constellations above than hovering among them. However, most of the tones on Journey to the Moon and Beyond seem to frolic in the far-flung outer reaches of the cosmos. It serves as a reminder that, even at its most alien, Garson’s art thrums with lively warmth. Journey to the Moon and Beyond presents a curious take on his boisterous spirit, cultivating an aural realm that is surrealistically over-the-top in the most endearing way.

Read more in Experimental →

Top Stories

Latest see all stories

On Bandcamp Radio see all

Listen to the latest episode of Bandcamp Radio. Listen now →