Boomkat Product Review:
The definitive collection of Laraaji’s earliest works, Segue To Infinity compiles his 1978 debut Celestial Vibration and six additional side-long studio sessions from previously unknown acetates from the same period. A lengthy essay by Vernon Reid chronicles the origins of Edward “Flash” Gordon, illustrated with dozens of previously unpublished photographs that capture this beautiful and elusive young artist. New age music doesn't get much more heartfelt, or classic, than this.
If you've dug into Laraaji's back catalog before then you've probably stumbled on his first - and for many people finest - album, released in New York back in 1978 with almost no distribution under the artist's government name Edward Larry Gordon. Made up of two side-long tracks 'All Pervading' and 'Bethlehem', the album captured a sound that would define Laraaji's practice over the next decades: freeform zither abstractions that piped the unmistakable instrument through delay, reverb and phaser, creating shimmering clouds of sound that unsurprisingly caught the attention of none other than Brian Eno. Here that material's been bumped up and built out considerably with tracks collected from studio sessions that at the time were pressed as acetates. Title track 'Segue to Infinity' begins with the artist's voice explaining "it's reel number four", and we're immediately transported into the same realm albeit with slightly different instrumentation. The zither's still there, but assisted by silken flute oscillations that flit between folksy magick and Chinese dizi tonality.
'Kalimba' is self-explanatory, and Laraaji channels the idiophone through his customary effects, using rolling rhythm just as much as clouds of harmony. The delay and subtle phasing creates a hypnotic shimmer that's as intoxicating as the former street musician's zither work - and maybe even more revelatory. 'Koto' is similarly trackable, and Laraaji's approach to the Japanese half-tube zither is familiar certainly but contributes a different shade to his sound. Elsewhere 'Ocean' uses the same zither patterns as its predecessors, but brings it completely to the surface, allowing us to hear everything in gleaming detail. Even if you've already heard "Celestial Vibrations" this new material gives us the opportunity to interface with Laraaji's earliest era in minute detail, hearing how these experiments would inform his later direction. It's a revelatory set.