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. Some minor knob-turning adds flavour to "Sun Gong No. 1," but there isn't much here for serious followers of modern electronic music. It will bore you mostly, which — not to be dismissive here — appears to be the point entirely.
Bring on the Sun, the longer of the two discs (out September 22), is sadly worse. "Introspection" features Laraaji's famous electric zither front and centre, and it's precisely what you'd expect a work by that title to sound like — lots of synth washes and wind-chimey crystals in the background.
The album's low point comes over top of the solo acoustic guitar performance of "Change," in which Laraaji croons, "Change, by any other name is still change." As if that isn't insightful enough, he proceeds to explain that if we can flow with change, we can flow with life. In a similar vein, if we can dance with change, we can dance with life. And so on. These profundities continue for more than seven minutes — a rarely accomplished exercise in irony, given the song's title. (All Saints Records, )