Mojo JANUARY 2014 - by Jim Irvin


Minimalism, "lovely music" and head-shop classics.

All Saints Records was founded in 1991, by Dominic Norman-Taylor, as a hub for composers of experimental, minimalist music. Brian Eno, Roger Eno, Harold Budd, Laraaji, John Cale and Jon Hassell all cut albums for the label, many of which have been unavailable for some time. The imprint is currently being revived, with an impressive reissue programme over the next twelve months across multiple formats, including career-spanning retrospectives by all its artists.

An excellent way in is through the music of Californian composer and keyboard player Harold Budd, who has made three-dozen records for a variety of labels. His work is routinely described as 'ambient music', though he doesn't much care for the term, preferring 'lovely music', and disliking the idea that it might be experienced passively; he writes, he says, to create an emotional response.

Wind In Lonely Fences 1970-2011 collects eighteen works across two CD5, ranging from very early organ drones in thrall to Terry Riley, organic recordings for Brian Eno's Obscure label, brooding collaborations with Gene Bowen, work with the Cocteau Twins and pedal steel player BJ Cole, to choral and classical pieces. The works are drawn from across his career, not just projects on All Saints, so it's an excellent capsule introduction to his diverse output. If you'd like more, there are seven albums gathered on vinyl or CD and served with a detailed book in Buddbox, among them his surprising collaboration with XTC's Andy Partridge, Through The Hill, the pellucid Music For Three Pianos, eerie Abandoned Cities (two side-long chillers), By The Dawn's Early Light - which includes examples of his poetry - and the stirring Luxa, with the Cocteaus.

Also this month via All Saints, Celestial Music 1978-2011, a two-disc glimpse into the world of Laraaji, an unusual dude described as a "Harlem-based electronic mystic" who was a comedian before becoming a minimalist musician and spiritual seeker, discovered by Brian Eno playing autoharp in Washington Square Park and invited to record for the Ambient series. Also incredibly prolific, his work touches on infinite electric autoharp, narcotic kalimba, new-age dance, dub reggae, "astral jam", and the healing power of laughter. Two Sides Of Laraaji combines two out of print albums, Flow Goes The Universe (1992) and The Way Out Is The Way In (1995). Essence/Universe, meanwhile, from 1987, comprises two half-hour glacial drifts, perfect for browsing in a psychic book shop. Laraaji also crops up with the mesmeric Unicorns In Paradise on Light In The Attic's deliciously sedative new compilation, I Am The Center - Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990, in two-CD or three-LP editions. Peace out.