Laraaji is best known for his blissfully ambient instrumental new age works. This reissue of an obscure cassette release from 1984 see him adding soulful vocals to his hammered dulcimer, keyboard and rhythm machine. At times it’s a little reminiscent of Alice Coltrane’s recently reissued ashram recordings, though with a somewhat more secular vibe. Gently joyful songs with a lovely lo-fi home production, balmy and chilled out to an extreme degree. Available on LP and CD.
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Reissue culture is a headache. Oversaturation begets discontent and within a few months your favourite and most fantastical artist starts to feel more like another commodity. It’s a fine line, but I’m glad we’re not done with the Laraaji retrospective yet: each new release is dragging up a new shade of his existence, offering us a portrait of one of leftfield music’s most versatile thinkers. On this, the first volume of ‘Vision Songs’, he comes close to songwriter status, offering straightforward and melodic hymns to go with his perpetual-motion playing.
In their press release, Numero are willing to commit some of these songs to “the great American songbook”, but the reality is much more humble. These songs don’t need words for mincing -- they’re simply lovely. With his rhythm and sparse instrumentation beneath, Laraaji sings songs both absent-minded and unstoppable, echoing out to the influence of Arthur Russell. It sounds like he’s on a road trip in a car driving on nothing but fog, his verses muddling together into a self-contented haze.
Delve a little further and the acoustic world of Laraaji starts to dissipate: you can hear groovy synth pop seeping in on “Who’s In Love”, which collages images of the Magnetic Fields, a Disney film and an American high-school prom in my head. In a way, it’s a massive surprise that Laraaji ever crafted such immediate and anthemic melodies, such pop songs, but in another way it’s no surprise at all: who else has done more to make the unusual sound ubiquitous?
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- Vision Songs Vol. 1 by Laraaji
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