Album of the Week // 27–31 July
Jon Hassell — Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Vol. 2) [Ndeya]
A companion piece to 2018’s Listening To Pictures, the second volume in the pentimento series presents eight new tracks by the Jon Hassell, continuing his exploration of the possibilities of musical genre-splicing. Pentimento is defined as the “reappearance in a painting of earlier images, forms, or strokes that have been changed and painted over” and this is evident in the innovative production style Jon uses to ‘paints with sound’, using overlapping nuances to create an undefinable and intoxicating new palette.
The album is bookended by two 8-minute+ epics. The hypnotic ‘Fearless’ with its blurry, noir-ish texture is mirrored by the beautiful sci-fi lullaby and finale, ‘Timeless’, a track with a vaporous, billowing quality as electronic clicks and bubbles float over a landscape of shimmering complexity. The bridge between is no less compelling, from the frantic, spidery IDM sketch of ‘Reykjavik’ to the collapsed-time ballad of ‘Unknown Wish’. Whilst containing seeds of classic ‘fourth world’ fusion, this record finds the artist still questing to create new forms and mutations of music, a thrilling window into what music could sound like in a world to come.
About Jon Hassell:
A trumpet player, composer and musical conceptualist, Jon Hassell’s career bisects a multitude of strands in the history of the avant-garde and the development of new forms of music. Having studied under Karl-Heinz Stockhausen in Cologne (alongside future members of the band Can), he played on the original recording of Terry Riley’s ‘In C’ (1968), was part of La Monte Young’s Theatre Of Eternal Music and studied kirana gharana singing with Pandit Pran Nath, all of which informed his instrumental technique and treatment of the trumpet with electronic effects.
A growing interest in the indigenous music of other cultures led to the invention of his Fourth World blend of different styles, first heard on albums such as Vernal Equinox and Earthquake Island in the late-1970s. These caught the ear of Brian Eno, who collaborated with Hassell on the Possible Musics album, and used many of the Fourth World ideas on his My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts album with David Byrne. He has played on albums by artists including Talking Heads (the seminal Remain In Light), Peter Gabriel, David Sylvian and Björk, composed film soundtracks and contributed to theatre works. In the past few years he has been acknowledged as a key influence on a new wave of artists including Oneohtrix Point Never, Huerco S and Visible Cloaks. In 2017 his music was celebrated with a compilation album on Optimo Music, Miracle Steps: Music From The Fourth World 1983–2017. In 2018 he released his first album in 9 years, the widely acclaimed Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Vol. 1). Earlier this year, his classic debut album, 1977’s Vernal Equinox, was remastered from the original tapes and re-released, with an inner sleeve essay from Brian Eno about the impact the album has had on him.
“Jon Hassell’s ideas and techniques have so thoroughly permeated lo- and hi-brow electronic music that it’s difficult to think what contemporary music would sound like without his influence. I repeat: there’s categorically no doubt that Hassell has had as an important effect on contemporary music as Miles Davis or Jimi Hendrix or James Brown or the Velvet Underground.” The Wire
“Go through his catalog and his trumpet becomes a phantasmagorical thing, something that transcends language, both unheard yet uncannily familiar. It’s a canopy of tropical birds, a woman’s plaint in a foreign tongue, a buzzing insect, a Bedouin horn calling across the dunes, the distant whistle of a train, Chet Baker on Venus.” Resident Advisor