Sounds off the Beaten Track

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In 1987 the Glastonbury Festival opened its WOMAD stage for the first time to provide a showcase for the kind of acts you might expect to see at the separate World Of Music And Dance festival. Sounds off the Beaten Track is a 52-minute TV documentary about the acts who appeared on the WOMAD stage at Worthy Farm that year, and also about the WOMAD ethos itself, a project inaugurated in 1980 by Peter Gabriel and others to give greater prominence to musicians from all over the world. One of the WOMAD initiators, Mark Kidel, also directed the film, while co-founders Peter Gabriel and Thomas Brooman talk on camera. The film captures the Glastonbury Festival at a time when it was still a relatively small and rather ramshackle affair, closer to its hippy roots, and very different from the sprawling tent city of later years.

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The main interest, however, is the music, especially the amount of time given to the Burkina Faso group, Farafina, and to Jon Hassell, whose Flash Of The Spirit collaboration with Farafina was released the following year. This was the first I saw of Hassell on TV, and also the last until he turned up much later as a guest on MTV’s Seal Unplugged session. I remembered the Farafina performance but I’d forgotten that Hassell also talks a little about his Fourth World idea. Among the other featured artists are The Bhundu Boys, Toumani Diabaté, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, The Inspirational Choir, and Najma Akhtar who subsequently appeared on another unplugged (or partly plugged) session with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Jon Hassell had been under the WOMAD umbrella since 1982 via the excellent Music And Rhythm compilation album which included an exclusive live recording of Ba-Benzélé. He was often critical of the “world music” marketing label, seeing it as a convenient way for record companies and music sellers to appear to be supporting musical diversity while placing all the non-Anglophone recordings in a ghetto area away from everything else. He preferred to talk of “worldly music”, an idiom that was of the world, uncloistered, freed from the ghetto; music where the beaten and unbeaten tracks might combine to form a new highway.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Jon Hassell, 1937–2021
Jon Hassell, live 1989
Power Spot by Michael Scroggins

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 pieces unique to Sulla Strada (1995), a collection of Hassell music old and new compiled 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.

Weekend links 301

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The Music from the Balconies (1984) by Edward Ruscha.

• At The Quietus: High-Rise director Ben Wheatley runs through his favourite films. Kudos for mentioning Elem Klimov’s Come and See (1985) among the more familiar fare, a nightmarish masterwork that everyone should watch at least once. On the same site, author Joe R. Lansdale also lists some favourite films while discussing the new TV series of his Hap and Leonard books.

Electric Hintermass (Sound Apart) by Hintermass, a track from The Apple Tree, their debut album on the Ghost Box label.

Michael Mann’s Heat: “A complex, stylistically supreme candidate for one of the most impressive films of the Nineties”.

• Despair Fatigue: David Graeber on how [political] hopelessness grew boring, and what happens next.

• Mix of the week: FACT Mix 541 by Tortoise, and Blowing Up The Workshop 56 by Eric Lanham.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: “Some books (1961–1975) that either faked ingesting LSD or did”.

• David Litvinoff again: “Was he only an opportunistic hustler?” asks David Collard.

John Carpenter’s The Thing rescored with one of the director’s Lost Themes.

Overlooked: a book by Marina Willer about the manhole covers of London.

• Pam Grossman (words) and Tin Can Forest (art) ask What is a Witch?

• A long way down: Oliver Wainwright on JG Ballard and High-Rise.

• A conversation with designer and typographer Erik Spiekermann.

• The BFI compiles a list of “The 30 Best LGBT Films of All Time“.

• Decoding the spiritual symbolism of artist Hilma af Klint.

Sabat Magazine

Heat (1983) by Soft Cell | The Heat (1985) by Peter Gabriel | Heat Miser (1994) by Massive Attack

Polaroids

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I was given a Polaroid Instant Camera some years ago, not the cult SX-70, a later model. I still have it somewhere but never used it very much. The film cartridges were still available in shops, but at around £1 a shot Polaroids always seemed like a costly indulgence unless you had some specific use for them which I never did. The photo of Murnau’s Nosferatu was taken from a TV screen, and seems to be the only print I kept.

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Radiation Victim Holding a Rabbit and Carrot (1974) by Les Krims.

This post was prompted by a search for the Polaroid manipulations made by Les Krims in the 1970s. Krims was one of the first people (the first?) to exploit the potential of the print’s slow processing to create surreal and grotesque images. Krims self-published a collection of these as Fictcryptokrimsographs in 1975. The Francis Bacon-like “radiation victim” is one of the more restrained examples, many of the others being male and female nudes in various stages of mutation.

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Peter Gabriel (1980).

The mutation technique was more famously employed by the Hipgnosis design team and Peter Gabriel for the cover art of Gabriel’s third album. (Americans insist on calling this album “Melt” even though it was never titled as such.) The technique was also used for photos on the inner sleeve and on two of the single releases.

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No Self Control (1980). Front and back sleeve of 7-inch single.

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William Burroughs by Ralph Steadman.

Also in 1980, Ralph Steadman says discovered the same technique while on holiday in Turkey. I recall him discussing his own manipulations, which he calls “Paranoids”, on TV around this time. There’s no indication that Steadman was aware of Krims or the Gabriel album but he’s continued to use the technique ever since. The Burroughs portrait was one of a series created in 1995 when Steadman paid a visit to Lawrence, Kansas. There’s film of the meeting here although I’m more interested in the older TV film on the same page which shows Steadman creating a new composite portrait by drawing onto the emulsion.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Portrait

Weekend links 199

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Follow the Leader (London, 2011) by Isaac Cordal.

• “Brutalism is the decor of dystopian films, literature and comics, just as gothic is for horror.” Jonathan Meades‘ A-Z of brutalism.

Vitaly Shevchenko on the urban explorers of the ex-USSR. Related: Photos by Vitaliy Raskalov from the top of the Shanghai Tower.

Joe Banks reviews the throbbing, hissing, minatory pulses of the Black Mill Tapes 1–4 by Pye Corner Audio.

Walter Benjamin is the only one among the commentators who attempts to pin down the anonymous, evanescent quality of Walser’s characters. They come, he says, “from insanity and nowhere else. They are figures who have left madness behind them, and this is why they are marked by such a consistently heartrending, inhuman superficiality. If we were to attempt to sum up in a single phrase the delightful yet also uncanny element in them, we would have to say: they have all been healed.” Nabokov surely had something similar in mind when he said of the fickle souls who roam Nikolai Gogol’s books that here we have to do with a tribe of harmless madmen, who will not be prevented by anything in the world from plowing their own eccentric furrow.

Le Promeneur Solitaire: WG Sebald on Robert Walser

Drink The New Wine, an album by Kris Force, Anni Hogan, Jarboe, Zoe Keating and Meredith Yayanos.

• At 50 Watts: Illustrations by Fortuné Méaulle for Alphabet des Insectes by Leon Becker.

Lawrence Gordon Clark, Master of Ghostly Horror. An interview by John D’Amico.

• Chapel Perilous: Notes From The New York Occult Revival by Don Jolly.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 107 by Ernestas Sadau.

• An Occult History of the Television Set by Geoff Manaugh.

• Was Ist Das? The Krautrock Album Database.

• First dérive of the year by Christina Scholz.

John Waters’ Youth Manifesto.

Gardens of Earthly Delights

Psychedelic Folkloristic

Water Music I / Here Comes The Flood / Water Music II (1979) by Robert Fripp & Peter Gabriel | After The Flood (1991) by Talk Talk | Flood (1997) by Jocelyn Pook