Laraaji, the ambient master who Brian Eno championed in the eighties, was a child of the tape era. His best works typically consist of two pieces – or two halves of the same piece – each taking up a 20-to-40-minute half of a 40-to-80-minute record. Tape was the first medium that allowed for excursions of this scale, and Laraaji took full advantage, creating ambient epics that provided seemingly endless space for the listener to swim through.

One imagines Laraaji wasn’t too pleased at the changes made to his Sun Araw collaboration Professional Sunflow to make it viable on vinyl. There are two pieces here, each well over 20 minutes, and each is sharply interrupted by a sudden fade-out and fade-in halfway through. This is where you’re supposed to flip the record, and after you’ve done it and realize you’re in for another 15 minutes of the same piece, it’s a lot harder to get lost in the music. The point of ambient music is that eventually you forget you’re listening to the same thing over and over again. On Professional Sunflow, it’s naggingly hard to forget, and it breaks the spell.

Luckily, Professional Sunflow is every bit as good as one would hope a Laraaji/Sun Araw collaboration would be. Anyone who likes their psychedelia a little messy and a little trippy will find much to revel in here. Sun Araw, here the duo of Cameron Stallones and Alex Grey, provide scattered percussion and slippery guitar squiggles as Laraaji fills in the empty space with zithers and dulcimers. Every now and again, he’ll let out an exhortation, generally foreign-language chanting or thick peals of laughter. (When he’s not making music, Laraaji hosts workshops on the healing power of laughter.) It’s a similar approach to Sun Araw’s; on most Sun Araw records, Stallones will interrupt the bubbly atmospherics to shout “Alright!” or something similar.

Indeed, anyone who’s heard a Sun Araw album will find a lot of the elements here familiar, especially the fragmented percussion. The difference is that the atmosphere is more whimsical than usual. There are lots of bells, which give these jams a bit of a fairyland vibe. With their psychedelic wah-wah guitars and soul-seeking vibe, past Araw records were often compared to ‘70s Miles Davis, especially Agharta and Pangaea. Professional Sunflow is a little more Blue Moods – more spacious, more friendly, a lot more twinkling sounds, but no less mysterious.

As for Laraaji, he plays a supporting role, which makes sense given that there’s one of him and two of them. Stallones and Grey don’t overwhelm him, and he seems happy as a clam, strumming away at his zither and laughing his head off. He’s content to build on his partners’ work rather than fight back with his own vision. Listeners might find themselves longing to lose themselves in the music as much as Laraaji does here. Alas, compromises had to be made to fit all their ideas into a neat two-disc package. If you need an excuse to get into tape, this is it.

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