The American musician born Edward Larry Gordon, Laraaji is one of the most gifted sonic wizards to ever emerge from the underground. He’s perhaps best known for his work with Brian Eno, who brought him into his world via a note left in Laraaji’s case while he was busking in New York City’s Washington Square Park. And while Laraaji’s connection to Eno is one of the most well-known pieces of his origin story, Eno didn’t discover his music until after Laraaji had already been playing and recording for years.
Before his fateful meeting with Eno, Laraaji’s seminal 1978 debut, Celestial Vibration, was an album that shared many of the trappings that would come to define ambient music: long, unfurling compositions with little or no percussion; light synthesizer tones; and a spacey sound. It was a work of transcendent music that was (and still is) difficult to describe—inspired by spirituality, Eastern philosophy and nature, but working in an idiom rooted in jazz and new age.
With all of his style, Laraaji’s music has always avoided being simply classified as ambient, spiritual jazz or drone. His sound has always been a state of mind, a singular transmission from another dimension where silence itself is song. It’s as meditative as modern classical or ambient, but it has a transcendent quality that contemporary new age music often lacks.
Recently released by Numero Group, Segue to Infinity is the definitive showcase of Laraaji’s singular vision—eight contemplative, side-long tracks that feel like inquiries into the nature of the cosmos rather than songs. A box set release of four LPs packed with original material and previously unheard music that was discovered on eBay by a college student in 2021, it’s a powerful collection of resonant music. Each piece sounds at once ancient and futuristic, hitting that sweet spot between meditative and electrifying, with a soothing blend of organic sounds, gently pulsating drones, and vibrant zither strumming.
In addition to being isolated pieces with an ethereal quality, the eight tracks on Segue to Infinity also work well together as a sequenced ambient soundtrack. Though it encompasses a seemingly infinite variety of sounds and textures, it all feels cohesive.
Laraaji’s revival comes at a time when such things seem ever-more relevant. It’s the perfect antidote to the busyness of our present time, the kind of music that allows you to find a piece of yourself at the end of the day, even in the midst of chaos.
The Numero Group’s dive into Laraaji’s oeuvre adds a crucial chapter to ambient music’s history. He’s not just a street busker who got lucky with Eno; he’s a true visionary at work and an important figure in new-age and ambient music.