In new age and ambient circles, it is, quite rightly, almost impossible to avoid mention of Laraaji, from his solo output to the Brian Eno-commissioned Ambient 3: Day Of Radiance. As such, Vision Songs Vol. 1 is an unusual work. An album of sedative songs fading between each other, it feels more like a notebook than an album with a defining concept.
It is easier to tackle Vision Songs Vol. 1 as if it were a continual chant. Lyrical themes and musical motifs disappear and reappear, and Laraaji uses solely synth, drum machine, zither and minimal percussion throughout.
‘Hare Jaya Jaya Rama’, is a melding of the ‘Hare Krishna Mantra’ with the ‘Govinda Jaya Jaya’, a devotional chant often sung by the Krishna Consciousness movement. ‘Om Tryumbacom’ is a version of the ‘Tryambakam Mantra’, which in turn is a verse of The Rigveda, a collection of Indian Vedic Sanskrit Hymns. It is said to be beneficial for mental, emotional and physical health and indeed a ‘Moshka Mantra’, which is a chant which bestows longevity and immortality. Islam also plays a significant role on the album, most prominently on the track ‘Allah’. Featuring muses like “Allah, my brother. Allah, my universe. Allah, my healer,” it melds together to create tender music, reaffirming a love for life.
Similar themes can be found within the eminent works of Arthur Russell, along with the works of Otis G. Johnson, whose 1978 album, Everything – God is Love employs lo-fi synths and religion as a way of conveying ideas. Although Johnson’s album is largely influenced by gospel and soul rather than Eastern mysticism, upon closer inspection these influences can also be found in Vision Songs Vol. 1, specifically on ‘Who’s In Love?’ and ‘Laws Of Manifestation’. The latter takes a step back towards the Eastern mysticism influence by taking direct inspiration from David Sprangler’s 1975 book, The Laws Of Manifestation: A Consciousness Classic in which the reader is invited to “apply principles of attracting to oneself, through love, whatever materials, energy, or help needed to promote wholeness or further growth.”
These disparate influences, home recording charm and erratic mix of electronics allows Vision Songs Vol.1 to work as proto-hypnagogic pop. The album cover only enforces this, reminiscent of something Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland’s now defunct project Hype Williams would produce or, similarly, an early Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti cover. Specifically the latter’s tracks ‘Jesus Christ Came to Me in a Dream’ and ‘Girl In A Tree’ feel as if they could seamlessly fit into Vision Songs Vol. 1. The music being more concerned with feeling rather than direct message.
Words: Alex Weston-Noond