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Laraaji/Arji Oce/AnandaDallas Acid - Arrive Without Leaving Music Album Reviews

The career of the new age deity has been defined by a string of radiant collaborations. Here, with his longtime partner and a synth trio, he again lifts off.

Long before he was reborn as the new age deity Laraaji, Edward Larry Gordon’s career depended upon his ability to react. He was initially an actor and stand-up comedian, crafts that thrive or die through a performer’s response to crowd and circumstance. That talent has aided Laraaji in most every aspect of his work, making him a magnetic leader of laughter meditation workshops and a particularly generous musical collaborator. This was as clear on his career-making 1980 masterpiece, the Brian Eno-produced Ambient 3: Day of Radiance, as on subsequent documents of such miraculous meetings. Whether playfully rapping over Japanese dub artists Audio Active on 1995’s The Way Out Is The Way In or melding minds with psychedelic duo Blues Control for the FRKWYS series in 2011, his commitment to working together has spawned much of his best work. Arrive Without Leaving—the next great union in the now 75-year-old’s sprawling discography—again bridges new age generations to create something that sits serenely outside time.

The record follows a March 2018 concert at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust, where Laraaji and longtime collaborator and fellow music healer Arji OceAnanda shared the bill with a younger synth trio from Texas, Dallas Acid. They vibed and, the next day, headed to a nearby studio to jam. OceAnanda collaborates with Laraaji on records and in laughter workshops so frequently that they feel like extensions of one other. In addition to chimes, digital flute, and Peruvian seed pods used as subtle shakers, she adds a great deal of mbira here, the African thumb piano that has become one of Laraaji’s signatures. She was uncredited in the title of FRKWYS Vol. 8, though she was as present and essential then as now, where she rightly gets her due. Dallas Acid—Linda Beecroft, Michael Gerner, Christian Havins—play a similar part to Blues Control: younger experimentalists inspired but not contained by new age, eager fans to their temporary bandmates. Their six-hour studio session was edited into Arrive’s concise 36 minutes, a focused, sunny sequence that hits the body and mind like a concentrated shot of B vitamins.

The quartet opens with its longest track, the 10-minute cleanse of “Evening Reduction.” It outlines Arrive’s tranquil vocabulary before building on it during four more soundscapes. “Full Moon Serenade” continues the slow burn with distant chimes and angelic vocals courtesy of Laraaji, twinkling together over synths and birdsong. The album blooms during centerpiece “This Much Now,” which capitalizes on the electric zither sweeps that have defined so much of Laraaji’s music. As with his classic album for Eno’s Ambient series, its folk-dance melodies are almost too lively to fit the famous “ignorable as it is interesting” ethos, but they alter perceptions just the same. Synth washes and seductive strums vibrate the ears and sooth the mind with the same precision that Laraaji’s laughter exercises pinpoint parts of the brain and body.

As the album moves into “Somewhere Here,” the group’s pieces fuse, all their layers cohering into one. It begins simply with a single flute melody before growing into a virtual sound bath, where the beginnings and ends of every instrument blur like acid trails and seamlessly bridge into the climactic “This Much More.” Laraaji’s virtuosic playing can often make him sound like multiple people, but what’s remarkable about Arrive is how this new age mini-orchestra eventually sound like a singular being. Some of that credit belongs to Jeff Zeigler, the veteran recording engineer and kindred experimentalist given the Herculean task of mixing Arrive. But Laraaji provides the one-of-a-kind unifying presence he always has. Whether working with old friends or new collaborators, he can turn any jam session into a day of radiance.

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