Fourth Worlds: A Jon Hassell Mix

As noted in the previous post, Jon Hassell has a new and very well-received album out this month, his first in several years. To honour the occasion I thought I’d finally post the Hassell mix I’ve had in mind for some time. The delay was mainly a consequence of not settling on a final version, so the album release has at least forced my hand. This still doesn’t feel completely satisfactory but it has the benefit of not being a recycling of familiar works.

About ten years ago I made a CD compilation of Hassell-related odds and ends: one-off works from compilations, interesting collaborations and the like. The CD set forms the basis of this mix although I’ve blended everything into a single piece rather than present separate tracks. Some of these pieces are either rare or overlooked so even those familiar with the Jon Hassell discography may hear something new.

Note: I only noticed after uploading the mix that the presence of more than five tracks by the same artist means that people in the US may not be able to play this one. Sorry about that: blame your laws/politicians, etc.

Malay (edit) (1981) by Jon Hassell

Shadow (1982) by Brian Eno
From Eno’s On Land.

Ba-Benzélé (1982) by Jon Hassell
A different version to the piece from Possible Musics which appears on Music And Rhythm, a WOMAD compilation album.

Passaggio A Nord-Ovest (1982) by Jon Hassell
One of several unique pieces on Sulla Strada (1995), a collection of music created for an Italian stage work based on Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

Map of Dusk (1982) by Jon Hassell
A special commission for Myths 3. La Nouvelle Sérénité, a Sub Rosa compilation.

Sketch Pad With Trumpet And Voice (1985) by Peter Gabriel
From the soundtrack to Birdy.

Heroin (1993) by Ry Cooder
More soundtrack work, this one being for Walter Hill’s Trespass which features Hassell’s trumpet timbres throughout. I always regard this album as a darker, nightscape parallel to Hassell’s sunnier City: Works Of Fiction, not least for the way both albums are hip-hop related. There’s more from Trespass later in the mix.

Tycho City (1997) by Bluescreen Project
From The Vertical Collection (Sketches). Bluescreen Project was a collaboration with Peter Freeman which remixes works from the Hassell catalogue to create new hybrids.

Pygmy Dance (1993) by Jon Hassell
Another unique commission, this time for Ai Confini / Interzone on New Tone Records.

Slow Loris Vs. Poison Snail (1997) by David Toop
A guest appearance with tabla player Talvin Singh.

Power Malay (1997) by Bluescreen Project

Anima (1991) by Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses With Hector Zazou
A collection of Corsican songs given contemporary settings by Hector Zazou.

A Day For Trade Winds (2000) by Ronu Majumdar, Ry Cooder & Jon Hassell, Abhijit Banerjee

Amsterdam Blue (Cortege) (2000) by Jon Hassell, Gregg Arreguin, Jamie Muhoberac And Peter Freeman
From a soundtrack for a film that few people have a good word for, Million Dollar Hotel. It does, however, feature a Jon Hassell cameo and this excellent piece of music.

The Seeds Of Fate (1998) by The Insects & Richard Grassby-Lewis Featuring Jon Hassell
From the soundtrack to Richard Kwietniowski’s film of Gilbert Adair’s funny and touching novel, Love and Death on Long Island.

Jon Hassell, live 1989

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Jon Hassell’s 1990 album City: Works Of Fiction was reissued by All Saints recently in a smartly packaged three-CD/double-vinyl set. The highlight of the additional material was an hour-long concert by Hassell and his ensemble—Gregg Arreguin, Jeff Rona, Adam Rudolph and Daniel Schwartz—recorded at the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center in New York City on 17th September, 1989. It’s a great performance that sees the group running through some of the pieces that would later be recorded for the City album. Brian Eno was offstage mixing the sounds of rain forest creatures into the music.

Having listened to this concert regularly since the summer it’s been a surprise to find a video recording of what appears to be the very same performance. The tape has the date as the 16th but the music is an exact match for the CD; according to the NYT the group played three nights in all. The reduced lighting makes for gloomy visuals, and the musicians are much more concerned with playing than leaping around the stage. For me the attraction is simply seeing Hassell and company working their magic with such authority; some of Hassell’s pauses show his use of digital loops, something that’s never been so obvious on record. These performances, and the album that followed, saw a shift in the evolution of the “fourth world” concept, Hassell’s term for a “coffee-coloured classical music of the future” that would blend the first world and the third world, the past and the future, into new hybrids. The sleeve-notes for the City album began: “Spirit: not only in the forest but in the carwash, too.” Bringing palm trees and jungle sounds into the heart of Manhattan develops that idea. Hassell talked to The Wire about the album in 1990.

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