INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Electronic Sound JUNE 2018 - by Mark Brend
JON HASSELL: LISTENING TO PICTURES (PENTIMENTO VOLUME ONE)
New label and a first album in nearly a decade for revered experimentalist
Shortly after arriving in New York in 1978, Brian Eno came across Jon Hassell's Vernal Equinox album from the previous year. It was, Eno said, "a music I felt I'd been waiting for". The two became friends and collaborators. It's just one of the many creative relationships Hassell has formed over fifty years (and counting) at the vanguard of avant-garde and electronic music.
The trumpet re-imaginer, composer and musical conceptualist had, pre-Eno, studied under Stockhausen in Cologne with future members of Can, and participated in La Monte Young's Theatre Of Eternal Music. Oh, and he played on the original recording of Terry Riley's In C. Then there's the enduring fascination with what came to be called "world music", which saw Hassell applying lessons learned from the Indian singer Pran Nath to his trumpet technique. Post-Eno, fellow travellers have included Talking Heads, Björk, Ry Cooder and David Sylvian among others. And alongside all this there have been the solo albums.
Listening To Pictures, the octogenarian's first outing for nine years, is a cause for some celebration. The album's sub-title (Pentimento Volume One) references the artistic process defined as "the reappearance in a painting of earlier images, forms, or strokes that have been changed and used as elements in a final composition". This becomes both a metaphor for the recording process and a description of the finished recording. Daubs of sound and fine brush detail layer up to create an aural multiple-exposure, as if several compositions are bleeding into each other in any one track. Treated jazz trumpet phrasing, electronic loops, skittering percussion, electric piano textures and bursts of spidery synth noise come and go in what, at thirty-eight minutes, is an exemplar of brevity and invention. The shortest piece, Her First Rain, is a minute and thirty-eight seconds of particularly affecting electronic bass and electric piano ruminations, fading out into a scattering of percussive hits and glitches.
Listening To Pictures is released on Hassell's new label, Ndeya (pronounced "in-day-ya"), conceived as a home for new work, as well as selected archival releases. And presumably, hopefully, (Pentimento Volume Two).