Prolific long-term Brian Eno affiliate and zither enthusiast Laraaji has a couple of albums coming out this autumn. The slightly unfocused Bring On The Sun double is meant to be the headline-grabber, dropping some soul jazz elements into his new age ambient mix, leaving him even sounding a little like Terry Callier at one point. Spare a thought though for Sun Gong, which submerges the listener in half an hour of treated gong sounds.
A sonic explorer, mystical busker, standup comedian, laughter therapist and key figure in the history of ambient music, Edward Larry Gordon – aka Laraaji – returns, aged 73, with two albums. Sun Gong features two 13-minute drones produced purely with gong reverberations. Bring on the Sun is the more interesting release, one that sounds as if Laraaji has jumbled up 600 years of music from every part of the world – medieval plainsong, Javan gamelan, Hindustani classical music and so on – and arranged it into eight pieces of minimalism.
Laraaji has spent the past 40 years trying to ease the world’s stress. He creates soothing ambient music, and across several releases, Laraaji’s done his best to make you forget he’s even there. For his splendid new pair of releases, Sun Gong and Bring on the Sun, the new age musician and foremost purveyor of laughter meditation compiles another reflective set, full of the drifting ambience and life affirmations you’d expect from Laraaji.
The musician is probably best known for his 1980 album Ambient 3: Day of Radiance, which was produced by preeminent ambient composer Brian Eno (who discovered Laraaji playing in Washington Square Park and asked him to record an album as part of Eno’s famed “ambient” album series).
Reviewing the work of Laraaji Nadabrahmananda raises a difficult question: Had Brian Eno not discovered him performing his pawn-shop zither in Washington Square Park in 1978, would he have anything near the audience he has today?
Two new releases scheduled for this month suggest not. The first, Sun Gong, out September 8, includes two pieces that total just 27 minutes. Lovers of mysticism-charged ambient recordings will find some value here; there are enough drawn-out gongs and running water sounds here to bring solace to the frazzled ….
New age veteran Laraaji has updated his ambient oeuvre with his most varied work yet. The album’s many, immaculately detailed progressions peak among the dextrous layers of mbira on ‘Laraajazzi’.
Its far-out synth-sax solos twirl ever jazzwards, a sparse bass guitar threatening a groove that never lands, while its dense syncopation flirts with the high minimalism of Steve Reich. But the overall wash of sounds maintain their zen-like balance - ‘Bring On The Sun’’s fascinating sonic tensions never make the listener feel tense.