INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Record Collector NOVEMBER 2017 - by Paul Bowler
JON HASSELL: DREAM THEORY IN MALAYA - FOURTH WORLD VOLUME TWO
Hassell's electric dreams
The first volume of Jon Hassell's Fourth World series proved a potent catalyst back in 1980; its pan-global soundscapes - engineered to soundtrack an alternative world that fetishized non-western forms - opening the door for myriad new musical directions. Chiefly influenced was project collaborator Brian Eno, whose subsequent Fourth World-indebted projects included My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts and Talking Heads' Remain In Light.
By contrast, Hassell's own developments were largely unheralded, though they were barely less worthy. Originally released in 1981, this follow-up (produced alongside a largely uncredited Eno) was inspired by an essay by ethnologist Kilton Stewart about a Malayan tribe for whom dreams formed an intrinsic part of their culture.
Imagining the sounds that might accompany the mystical tribe, Hassell concocted a set of varied and evocative instrumentals based on his idea of the sounds the word Malaya conjured up. To that end, synths mimic cicada calls and jungle bird song, there are tribal chants and drums and eastern tuned chimes, gongs and melodies. The album's centrepiece, Malaya, uses field recordings of the neighbouring Semelai tribe splashing about in water as an ingenious percussive device. Above it all floats the vaguely Asiatic sound of Hassell's heavily processed trumpet.
It's a potent, headily exotic and evocative soundscape, though one that's rhythmically and melodically interesting enough to enjoy purely as music.