Florist’s Emily A. Sprague Disappears Into Their Synths On Solo Debut

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Emily A. Sprague’s Water Memory is just about everything one could want from an ambient synth album: misty, moody, more than a little bit ominous, with a pronounced sense of place. 

If the name Sprague sounds familiar, perhaps you know them as the central figure of the New York band Florist. A debilitating bike accident in 2016 left them temporarily unable to play guitar, which led them to accumulate the impressive modular synth rig that’s the source of this music.

This isn’t your typical chill-music fodder, and it requires both patience and a willingness to immerse yourself in pure sound. These tracks don’t change much over their runtimes, but they undulate calmly: the blank but impossibly beautiful expanse of water on the cover says it all.

The thirteen-minute “A Lake,” which opens the album, is an indistinct swath of reverb-drenched sound. It’s easy to just throw reverb on anything and call it ambient, but what makes “A Lake” so spooky are the little synth plings that bubble out of the background—faint lights deep in the fog. 

 

“Water Memory 1” is the album’s most austere track and, incidentally, its most soothing. It evokes the bleakness of Y2K-era ambient; two tracks it brings to mind are Biosphere’s “Black Lamb & Grey Falcon,” whose main loop lilts similarly towards the end, and Mika Vainio’s “Viher.”

The three tracks towards the end are a little more pleasant and less murky, the synths dancing with life instead of glinting out of the distance. This is music that suggests both water’s connotations as a healing force and its mystery as an inaccessable, impenetrable environment. 

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Per Bandcamp, Sprague’s inspiration was “imagination of the feelings that are floating through the natural world around us.” Of course, water probably doesn’t feel anything, but if you’ve ever stared out at a lake or the open ocean and felt something more—a lifelike sort of power surge, as if nature itself was staring back at you—you understand what’s going on on Water Memory.

If there’s an overarching flaw, it’s that it’s a bit short—39 minutes, not quite enough time to spin a truly immersive environment. But it’d be a shame if they built up such an amazing rig just to put it down after one album; I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear from Sprague and their synths.

-Daniel Bromfield