INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Financial Times JUNE 9, 2018 - by Ludovic Hunter-Tilney
JON HASSELL: LISTENING TO PICTURES
A first album in nine years finds the creator of the 'fourth world' theory of music in impressively supple form
Jon Hassell devised his "fourth world" theory of music in the late 1970s. The term was used by the US trumpeter in his 1980 collaboration with his admirer Brian Eno, Fourth World Volume 1: Possible Musics. Hassell defined it as "a primitive/futuristic sound combining features of world ethnic styles with advanced electronic techniques".
Now eighty-one, he is releasing his first album in nine years. Despite the lay-off, Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One), finds him in impressively supple form. Opening track Dreaming resumes a longstanding interest in unconscious states of mind, setting the slow synaptic pulse of a bass against shimmering trumpet notes. Al Kongo Udu dissolves African percussion into glitchy electronic beats. The effect is immersive and textural.
The album is named after the visual art term "pentimento", which describes how ghostly images painted over by the artist can reappear over time in the finished canvas. The layers of sound in Hassell's music operate in a similar fashion, merging into one another with gentle rhythms and enticing fragments of melody. No heavy-handed narrative is imposed. Openness to the world's sounds requires careful listening, otherwise it becomes what Hassell's work isn't, cultural tourism.