Laraaji — ‘Vision Songs: Volume 1’

Legend has it that the electronica-ambient all-star, Brian Eno — in his self-interested and narcissistic state, was strolling through Washington Square Park, New York, in the late seventies when he found Edward Larry Gordon playing a series of therapeutic and meditation styled harmonies on a zither, so absorbed within his own music that his eyes were closed as if in a trance. Eno then left a note in Gordon’s instrument case, inviting him to his studio to work on what would come to be ‘Ambient 3: Days of Radiance’ and amazingly, Eno for once didn’t eat Gordon up whole whilst exploiting the soul of the poor man.

Soon though, in 1984 Gordon would go on to produce and self-release his lesser-known masterpiece, known as ‘Vision Songs: Volume 1’ under the pseudonym Laraaji. But first, it’d be wise to understand where the rich, simple and soulful influences for this wonderful LP originated from…

There is no masterful and amazing story to Gordon. He’d dipped his head into the creative industries in the sixties, initially specialising in piano whilst studying at the Howard University in Washington D.C. Though soon he did have an attempt at comedy; Laraaji states in a few interviews that the interest grew due to the possibility of uniting people through times of racial tension. This was to be short-lived, and Gordon replaced it with a process in meditation through the use of laughter; a technique he’d learnt as an Ashram in New York.

Enjoyment and meditation have both come to be symbolic elements within Laraaji’s work, pushed forward with the use of his zither, an instrument that he’d gained when he traded his acoustic guitar in at the local pawn shop and then modified so he could play it through his speakers. Nevertheless, it is these unique meditative sounds that provide the tranquillity on many of Laraaji’ work, not to mention the bewildering ‘Vision Songs’. Most important though, is the humbleness in Gordon’s voice and the unedited lisp that appears every so often; it is most likely to be caught in the beguiling and catchy ‘All of a Sudden’.

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