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Jon Hassell & Brian Eno — Fourth World vol. 1: Possible Musics

Brian Eno & Jon Hassell — Fourth World vol. 1: Possible Musics (1980, Remastered 2014)

United States Jon Hassell & Brian Eno — Fourth World vol. 1: Possible Musics 
••–   “Almost all of the musicians I meet at the moment seem to regard Jon Hassell as one of the God–like geniuses of contemporary music.” — D a v i d   T o o p ,   T h e   W i r e
••–   “It's difficult to think what contemporary music would sound like without his influence...there's no doubt that Jon Hassell has had an effect on contemporary music as important as Miles Davis or Jimi Hendrix or James Brown or the Velvet Underground.” — THE WIRE
••–   “Lucid–dreaming music ... turning breath to wind and cheating gravity with every updraft.” — PITCHFORK MEDIA
••–   Critically revered trumpet visionary with a flowing, breathy style of playing and a distinctive timbre to his electronically processed horn.
Born: March 22, 1937, Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Style: Avant–Garde / Electronic / Ambient / Ethnic Fusion / Experimental
Album release: 1980/2014
Record Label: Glitterbeat / EG Records
Duration:     45:26
Tracks:
01 Chemistry     6:57
02 Delta Rain Dream     3:29
03 Griot (over 'Contagious Magic')     4:03
04 Ba–Benzele     6:11
05 Rising Thermal 14 16' N; 32 28' E     3:09
06 Charm (over 'Burundi Cloud')     21:37
© 1992 EG Records
CREDITS:
••–   Roberta Bayley Photography
••–   Michael Brook Bass
••–   Greg Calbi Mastering
••–   William Coupon Photography
••–   Cream Design
••–   Aïyb Dieng Congas, Ghantam, Ghatam
••–   Brian Eno Composer, Guitar, Keyboards, Moog Synthesizer, Performer, Producer, Prophet Synthesizer, Synthesizer, Treatments, Vocals
••–   Paul Fitzgerald Electronics, Electronic Sounds
••–   Jerome Harris Bass
••–   Jon Hassell ARP Synthesizer, Composer, Loops, Performer, Producer, Prophet 5, Prophet Synthesizer, Trumpet, Unknown Contributor Role
••–   Michael Jay Engineer
••–   Percy Jones Bass
••–   Tina Pearson Handclapping
••–   Gordon Phillips Handclapping
••–   Pete Sobol Assistant Engineer
••–   Andrew Timar Handclapping
••–   Naná Vasconcelos Congas, Drum Loop, Ghantam, Ghatam, Loops
Review by Stewart Mason; Score: *****
••–   Largely thought of merely as a mostly stillborn offshoot of Brian Eno's larger ambient music series, the Fourth World series of albums, in collaboration with trumpeter Jon Hassell, is actually an entirely separate beast. Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics starts off from the same basic idea as Hassell's previous solo albums, like Earthquake Island and Vernal Equinox: a blend of avant–garde composition, jazz soloing, and African and Middle Eastern rhythmic forms.
••–   This album adds only Eno's characteristic production touches, like the reversed echo that adds a ghostly, unreal edge to Hassell's trumpet solos on the side-long "Charm (Over Burundi Cloud)." The rest of the album, including the African hand drummers on the hypnotic "Delta Rain Dream" and the swirling, almost speech–like solos of "Griot," is pure Hassell. Although this album was never a chart hit and has become surprisingly underappreciated over the years, its influence on what has since become known as tribal techno is incalculable, as has its influence on those art rockers who have picked up a world music vibe. Peter Gabriel in particular owes a fair chunk of his royalty checks from Security onward to Jon Hassell.
REVIEW
By Aaron Leitko; December 3, 2014;  Score: 8.5
••–   The title Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics has a brainy and academic ring to it, but according to Jon Hassell, the record is at least 50% body music. "The basic metaphor is that of the north and south of a person is a projection of the north and south of the globe," the composer, improviser, and trumpet player, now 77, explained in an interview earlier this year. "A mind formatted by language and located in the head, compared with the area of wildness and sensuality below the waist where dance and music and procreation reigns."
••–   However, the first time through, Possible Musics — which Hassell created in 1980 in collaboration with producer Brian Eno — you might find that "wildness" and "sensuality" are not the first adjectives that come to mind. It is eerie, dreamlike, and otherworldly music.


••–   Throughout the record, Hassell’s trumpet is processed using a harmonizer effect, producing alien tonalities that seem to slide between the notes of a traditional Western scale. Often, his melody lines sound more like a human voice than a brass instrument. The rhythm tracks — made up of hand percussion and electric bass — are highly repetitive, but also wobbly and destabilized. The result is a sound that melds minimalism, jazz, and ambient sounds, but doesn’t fit comfortably into any of those genres.
••–   Though his name is not invoked as frequently as Eno’s, the last few decades have proven Hassell — who was born in Memphis, Tennessee — to be an influential presence in electronic music and modern composition. Active since the mid–'60s, his background is hard to duplicate. He studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen, played on the first recording of Terry Riley’s "In C", and has performed session work for Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel. His solo work has provided the sonic blueprint for a number of contemporary musicians, as well, including Aphex Twin (See Selected Ambient Works Vol. II) and Oneohtrix Point Never (Returnal) to name a few.
••–   Possible Musics was, in a lot of ways, the first full realization of Hassell's Fourth World concept. Many of the sounds — the freaky trumpet tones, the drifting ambient structures — were already in place on his 1977 debut LP, Vernal Equinox, but while that album is as meditative and mesmerizing as anything he has released, it is clearly identifiable as a jazz fusion record.
••–   On Possible Musics, synthesizers and electronic treatments help to nudge things into less recognizable territory. The music is informed by minimalism, but Hassell's take is very different than the works of Philip Glass or Steve Reich that are linked to that style. For those composers, minimalism often involved rigorous structure and clockwork execution, whereas Possible Musics is conceptually dialed in, but loose and improvisational in its execution. Harmonic motion is limited and all attention is centered around the embellishment of a single melodic line. Hassell is playing lead on these songs, but his performances often blur seamlessly into the backing tracks.
••–   Like Eno’s ambient records, Possible Music is all about mood. However, where Music For Airports sought to reflect a highly impersonal environment, Hassell’s work is intentionally exotic. No specific nation or people is being quoted here, though. Hassell's landscape is an invented one — an imagined culture, where high technology and mysticism are blended together. "John’s experiment was to imagine a 'coffee coloured' world," explains Eno in an essay first published in the Guardian and excerpted for the reissue's liner notes. "A globalized world constantly integrating and hybridizing, where differences were celebrated and dignified — and realize it into music."
••–   In this sense, Possible Musics is an exercise in science fiction. Like the William Gibson book Neuromancer, the record offered an imperfect, but prescient glimpse toward the near future.  The subsequent decades have not produced much music like Hassell’s, but the concepts that informed Possible Musics have proven predictive of the way that technology would come to mesh with music–making in other cultures — whether that’s Konono N°1's amplified thumb pianos, Group Doueh’s electric guitars, or any number of global electronic and pop sounds that have been produced using a laptop computer.
••–   And once you acclimate to the weird and warbly tones, there is a certain sensuality to Possible Musics. In Hassell’s desire to crossbreed cultures there’s an implicit act of intercourse going on — a desire for personal renewal and transformation via an "other", be it a nation, culture, or another human being. ••–  http://pitchfork.com/
Website: http://www.jonhassell.com/
Label: http://glitterbeat.com/artists/jon-hassell-brian-eno/
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Jon Hassell & Brian Eno — Fourth World vol. 1: Possible Musics

 

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