Michael Garrison Prisms

[Windspell; 1981]

Rating: 5/5

Styles: early electronic, progressive electronic
Others: Tangerine Dream, Giorgio Moroder, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis

A couple things have led up to my review of Michael Garrison’s cherished album, Prisms. The first thing is my never-ending love for '70s and '80s synthesizer music, and the second is the way I became familiar with Garrison’s work. In 1996, an album was released that changed my life; that album was DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing. It started a landslide of music research for me, in that I persisted to find all the original music samples DJ Shadow had used for the creation of his masterpiece. Although none of Garrison’s material was used on Endtroducing, a small portion of his work would later be found on one of Shadow’s singles. As a result of becoming enchanted by these lost artists/albums, including Michael Garrison himself, who were responsible for making some completely amazing new music, my journey to learn more about them increased.

My first impression of Michael Garrison’s music was that it was some of the most amazingly beautiful and innocent sounds I’d ever heard. At a young age, I was a huge fan of the music Tangerine Dream made for Risky Business and what Vangelis did for Chariots of Fire, but somehow I never really took it upon myself to search out other artists that made similar music. Stumbling on Michael Garrison’s long list of unknown albums gave me exactly what I was looking for. His music is instantly nostalgic in quality, yet somehow sounds so completely modern I’m amazed it’s nearly 25 years old. I imagine once word gets out about this artist, people will regard Garrison’s work as brilliant and sadly overlooked for years to come. To be quite honest, it puts a lot of modern electronic music to shame; even if it’s only made with vintage analog equipment.

The most noticeable quality on Prisms is its carefree nature. This is the work of someone who obviously had a happy life, because it comes through very clearly in his work. This makes repeated listening quite easy. In fact, that’s usually how I listen to Garrison’s albums: on repeat. If you’re like me, you will likely envision the sci-fi movies you used to love from the early '80s, along with the stand-up video games you used to play at the mall arcades. Essentially, that’s what makes Prisms such a lost gem; it’s nostalgic and timeless quality recalls a time when things were very different in all of our lives (In this case, the X generation will find this statement to be the most accurate).

Sadly, Michael Garrison died several weeks ago leaving behind a hypnotic list of music. That hasn’t stopped those who loved him from continuing to praise his music as inventive, original, and integral to an entire movement of electronic music. He was, as far as I'm concerned, the quintessential synth composer of the '80s. It doesn’t take too many listens to see this. Prisms, his second album, is my favorite of his recordings, and is one of the most beautiful albums of the past 20 years. Hopefully it's only a matter of time before it receives the attention it so rightly deserved long ago.  

1. Eruption
2. Interphase
3. Discovery
4. Runaway
5. Sequencing Blue
6. Melt Down
7. Pre-Dawn Flight
8. Lasers&n

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