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Jon Hassell - Fourth World Vol.1: Possible Musics (with Brian Eno) CD (album) cover


Jon Hassell

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If you like the Peter Gabriel's Passion album, then get this instrumental album! Unlike on Passion, the record here does not really induce mystical & disturbing atmospheres: the record is very terrestrial & African due to the miscellaneous primitive percussions and very aerial & relaxing due to the floating keyboards and the exotic woodwind instruments. It sounds so African that even some titles refer to the mainland. Brian Eno plays the slightly mysterious floating keyboards sounds, and it does not too much sound artificial; Jon Hassell plays the mellow, breezy, experimental & repetitive trumpet sounds in a very African style. The omnipresent basic percussions, played by Nana Vasconcelos among others, make the ensemble to sound like the World Beat style. It will probably need to be listened a few times in order to appreciate the very good parts. This album is quite relaxing.
Report this review (#99443)
Posted Saturday, November 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This album was my introduction to Jon Hassell's weirdly cool music. Back in the late seventies and early eighties, Tufts University's radio station, WMFO, had the greatest weekly prog show ever, Mental Notes. It was on this show, that I used to tape, and play over and over again, that Mental Mike played this entire album one night. I was hooked. On this album, Hassell has pared down the rhythm into eerie loops of sounds, much of them derived from his treated trumpet playing. And with the help of Brian Eno, his signature sound was born. Harmonized trumpet, sounding like a distant wailing train, plays over mesmerizing pseudo-tribal rhythms, to come up with a sound like nothing else.

The best track is Charm (Over "Burundi Cloud"), a twenty-one minute epic, where Hassell's trumpet often sounds like a human voice, wailing over the rhythms.

This has to be heard to be understood.

Report this review (#512831)
Posted Thursday, September 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
Retired Admin
4 stars The musical endeavors of Hal 9000

It´s funny how some albums just sound and feel like their artworks look. This is one of those, and I´ve spent many a nights looking at the pink and turquise alien surface of this record thinking about how much dough Eno and Hassell had to pay for their unofficial space journey before recording this little gem. -They surely found inspiration outside our little blue planet for this unique sounding music - no doubt about it. Possible musics is just about the best description of this album, if one doesn´t want to come off as sounding absurdely glib.

Glib is, however, perhaps the best way of actually describing the tunes herein. To me it sounds like I´m sitting on some sort of old school Zeppelin balloon made for space travels - slowly and steadily circling around a planet with such remarkable colors, that you´d think it was overpopulated with flamingos and peacocks. This record sounds otherworldly like no other album in my collection, and with a healthy dose of eastern percussions in the back simulating a two stroke engine´s muffled monotony, the whole spaceship metaphor suddenly takes on another form, and you are there! Right there overhead the pinkish crackled surface.

Now to the head honcho here: the trumpet. First time I listened to this album some 8 years ago, I didn´t hear anything sounding like a trumpet. I bought the album solely based on the front cover, which in all fairness is scorchingly beautiful, but it took me some time to fully understand that those wailing and yearning notes emanated from a trumpet. It´s here this review may become too glib for your tastes, but trying to express how the main ingredient of Possible Musics sounds like - demands unconventional imagery and ludacris statements, so here goes. The trumpet sounds like:

Some sort of elephant synthesizer

An electric violin played backwards

A hyperactive fly caught in one of those plastic toy saxophones

Or if you stretch and twist the end of an inflated balloon whilst pressing the air out of the sucker

Add to these slightly bonkers metaphors - that every note and beat of this record is processed and filtered through the mad genius of Brian Eno. He works like a sodastream machine - infusing bubbles into your off kilter drink. On the other hand it sounds like the album was recorded in a vacuum - far far away from gravity and other mundane things. On possible musics, I often picture Eno as an enormous wall of raspberry jam that every sound and instrument needs to pierce through. It covers them in this gooey substance making everything seem in unison, although some of the music here quite frequently acts altogether skewed and sonically challenging - like outbursts from an alien planet put into notes. You can hear how the trumpet sometimes wrestles its way through the sticky jam, and then suddenly breaks through sounding like: DIIIIUUUUUHHHHH DUUUUIIIIIIIIHHHHHOO UUHHIIIHHH

Along with the two stroke engine drums, which in some cases sound like they were recorded from the insides of a matchbox by tiny Indians, - the wailing of the trumpet becomes otherworldy. Like music from dreams - illustrations and thoughts from the back of your mind.

Come to think of it, this albums almost sounds like a slow and jazzy version of King Crimson´s The Sheltering Sky. There´s a similar vibe going on, although the emphasis on tranquility and gentleness is all the more apparent on this album. This is one of the most unique sounding records I have, and if you´re just remotely interested in the artwork - you should definitely go for it. It´s made by the same colors. Oh damn I almost forgot it again! This album is made by real humans and not colors.

Report this review (#527020)
Posted Monday, September 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Simply mind-blowing! When I first heard this album in 1981, from the opening ten seconds I realized that my musical scapes would never be the same--that the whole world and all it's sound, natural and unnatural, were, from now on, to be part of the possibilities of any and all musics that might come my way. I was at the time on an Enossification period, that is, I was gathering and devouring anything and everything that Brian Eno may have touched or influenced. The fact that Brian himself never considered himself a musician so much as a sound artist made him even more endearing to me: Pushing the boundaries was what I was all about in terms of my musical appetites. Then you add to the mix Jon Hassell's stunning sound and you have music like you've never heard it before. What was most surprising here, however, was how beautiful--and how danceable--these primal futuristic mindscapes were. As a producer and visionary, Eno has very few rivals. RIP to the amazing percussionist involved in this project, Nana Vasconcelos. His work with Egberto Gismonti, Pat Metheny, and CoDoNa was monumental.
Report this review (#948383)
Posted Tuesday, April 23, 2013 | Review Permalink

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