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Jon Hassell : Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One)

Dig through Jon Hassell’s career history and you’ll find numerous pivotal moments in the development of contemporary music . It all makes for a mind boggling CV. He spent two and half years studying with Stockhausen in the 1960s, played trumpet on the first recording of Terry Riley’s “In C“, collaborated extensively with La Monte Young, trained under Indian raga master Pandit Pran Nath and went on to invent the ‘fourth world’ music philosophy through critically acclaimed albums such as “Dream Theory in Malaya“.

Brian Eno stated “I owe a lot to Jon. Actually, a lot of people owe a lot to Jon. He has planted a strong and fertile seed whose fruits are still being gathered. “. Such fruits can be found embedded deep within contemporary music –  Discrepant Records, Black Merlin and countless ambient musicians all owe a debt of gratitude to Hassell’s ‘fourth world‘ continuum.

To top all this he now has a sub label with Warp (Ndeya) and a pile of new music to unleash upon us. The start of which is this, his first album in 9 years and where we find Hassell sticking to his own description of the ‘fourth world‘ aesthetic – “It’s about being transported to some place which is made up of both real and virtual geography”.

Alluding to the album title’s meaning it’s easy to imagine him throwing swathes of noise on to a canvas then re-arranging and tweaking each piece into new forms. Hassell and his crew (including Ralph Cumbers of Bass Clef) wield these sounds masterfully, drawing on a vast audio palette to create a synaesthetic world dense with electronic shards, glitches and stutters. Motifs emerge only to be disassembled, deconstructed then exploded into warm hazes of sound.

Hassell’s trumpet breathes eerie texture across the magnificent ‘Manga Time‘ whilst micro edits and machine chatter splatter our surroundings. Cicadas combine with goat bells as brushes of white noise fade and reappear in “Pastorale Vassant“. Tracks twist deftly down unexpected avenues, taking us on vivid, hallucinatory, psycho-acoustic journeys.

Few at the age of 81 can lay claim to Hassell’s extraordinary career and music, let alone release an album as unique and contemporary sounding as this. We can’t wait for more.

Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One) is out 8th June on Ndeya Records, order a copy on Bandcamp.


1. Dreaming
2. Picnic
3. Slipstream
4. Al Kongo Udu
5. Pastorale Vassant
6. Manga Scene
7. Her First Rain
8. Ndeya

Discover more about Jon Hassell on Inverted Audio.