Florist Leader Emily A. Sprague’s Mount Vision Is A Musical Mind Massage
Emily A. Sprague’s Mount Vision just sounds good. As “Synth 1” hits our ears, we fall back in a sort of reverie, letting the drone course through us like a golden river through the center of the brain. When new agers talk about healing-shop tapes or singing bowls having a “centering effect,” this must be what they mean—and if the cover and its eerily 2D expanse of forest are any indication, the connection to new age isn’t accidental.
But this isn’t music that feeds us platitudes. Nor does it evoke far-off dreamscapes, or seduce us with sterling sound design. It’s body music, something you can sink into with a pillow at the end of a long day. I could see it being a great accompaniment to a long walk, but this is the kind of album for which the ideal position for enjoyment is lying down, or slumped in a chair.
Most ambient albums are programmatic: they tell you what you’re supposed to imagine when you put them on, and willingly or not, we comply. The erstwhile Florist leader’s last album, Water Memory, was like that. It was about water, and as its modular synths sloshed against our ears, we could easily imagine rippling surfaces and vast expanses of shimmering aquatic desolation.
This one’s a little more vague. The tracks are all titled for the instrument they were made on, save for “Huckleberries,” a bleepy diversion most likely made on Sprague’s impressive synth arsenal (showcased extensively in a series of YouTube videos). The pearly, repeating piano figures that make up the two tracks titled for that instrument could have been stabbed out on any rusty upright, and the three tracks titled “Synth” sound—well, like synths.
Sometimes we want ambient albums to feed us cues, but on Mount Vision the physical impact of the sound is enough so that one won’t really mind. It’s a 33-minute mind massage in musical form.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons for why new age spirituality can be so maligned—its associations with the most egregious forms of pseudoscience; the infantilizing bastardizations of Eastern spirituality; the vacant, major-key treacle of so much of the music; the fake flutes.
But for the past half-decade or so, new age has seen an astonishing revival that eliminates the place-specific cues and chakra-babble and reminds us instead how beguiling and interesting this music can be at its best. A canon of fantastic new age music is developing (see: Suzanne Ciani, Laraaji, Michael Stearns), and young, hip acolytes on labels like Leaving and International Feel have expanded on it with some of the best mood music of recent years.
If the purpose of new age is to make us feel positive, to help us let go of stress and anxiety and those other pesky emotions for even a brief moment, Mount Vision is a sterling example of how this music can achieve that goal. Sprague is too smart and socially conscious to rely on chintzy MIDI flutes to transport us to a mock-“spiritual” South America or what have you. Mount Vision doesn’t have to tell us how to feel at peace. We listen, and we float away.