Fringe Review: Laraaji

Influential for his meditational ambient music – and for his laughter meditation workshops – American multi-instrumentalist Laraaji creates a serene and introspective soundscape at Elder Hall on the final night of the Fringe.

Weaving together the sounds of the zither, bells, chimes, mbira, gong and his own chants, Laraaji assembles atmospheric and spacious pieces that are reflective, relaxed and spiritually minded.

Most arresting are the two pieces that centre on the suspended gong. While playing the instrument with a selection of mallets, Laraaji moves a microphone over different points on the surface of the gong, resulting in eerily beautiful tones that evoke, variously, church bells, a mellotron, percussion, and other sounds in the synthesiser realm.

Live samples, loops and sound processing add interesting sonic threads, and a recurring sample of crickets and plopping water mostly avoids new-age kitsch by morphing into an effective percussive presence. However, the electronics do also lead to some clunky transitions between pieces, while an unfortunately positioned microphone detects and amplifies every click of the switches on the on-stage equipment.

Throughout the performance, an occasional low and slightly anxious tone rematerialises, contrasting nicely with the more optimistic notes and used to particular effect as a backdrop to Laraaji’s chants. This is music that is at core meditative – the shifts in sound and mood are subtle even if not always smooth – and while the journey is slow and little patchy, it is mainly satisfying.

Laraaji performed at Elder Hall on Sunday, March 17

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