Aug302018| August 30, 2018
“Discovering Possible Musics and Dream Theory in Malaya changed everything for me.”
Unlike Fourth World pioneer and one of ambient music’s heavyweights Jon Hassell, Michal Turtle may require some introduction. Familiar to fans of Dutch reissue label Music From Memory, who released a collection of his ’80s works on a 2017 compilation Phantoms of Dreamland, Michal Turtle grew up in South London, where, at the age of 22, he set up a four track studio in parents’ home and began recording.
The resulting synthesiser experiments and improvised analogue jams would become Music From The Living Room, the overlooked 1983 album that would lend several tracks to Phantoms of Dreamland. Continuing to work in music, whether as a jazz musician or writing musicals for horses, Turtle has returned 35 years on, with a new suite entitled Middle of the Road Less Travelled.
To mark the release, Turtle turned to one of his main inspirations, Jon Hassell. You can listen to the mix and read a short interview with Turtle below.
How has Jon Hassell influenced your work?
Discovering Possible Musics and then Dream Theory in Malaya when I was in my early 20s changed everything for me. I was working with some guys (Tim who co-wrote ‘Are You Psychic?’ was one of them, and Lucianne – Phantoms of Dreamland was another) and we were always discovering and exchanging interesting music, as well as making our own. I had already started working with the 4-track machine, noodling around with synths and whatever I could lay my hands on, when this new world of possibilities suddenly appeared.
Who else have you looked to for inspiration over the years?
The music I was involved with at this time (we were collectively known as The Duplicates) was already treading its tentative footsteps along this road, and getting to know these two albums, and others from around this time pushed us all to new places of discovery. Other artists whose work influenced us were Holger Czukay (Movies and On the Way to the Peak of Normal) Brian Eno, of course, also around this time, David Byrne’s non-Talking Heads stuff, Robert Fripp, as well as countless obscure one-off projects. Soon after this early period, samplers became available, and this again changed the way we all made music.
What continues to attract you to using analogue hardware as opposed to digital systems?
When I started doing all of this, analogue was the only possibility. A 4-track was the only realistic option for a poor student type. There were no loops, and no samples. Any voices you heard were just recorded on tape, and anything that might have sounded like a sample was either played in real time, spun off tape, recorded on tiny 2 1/2 second cassette loops, or treated with a pitch shifting echo machine.
Over the years, elements in my collection of synths have come and gone, and much of my set-up today is virtual. I still use an old Alpha Juno 2 and a Wasp synth on new music I make, as well as lots of live percussion, and as always, “whatever I can get my hands on”. With percussion tracks, I tend to play complete tracks rather than loop a couple of bars. Synth bass lines are also played from beginning to end (when we did ‘Are You Psychic?’ this was the only possibility) I tend to use a drum loop when starting on a track, which will get dropped in the final version.
How do you feel your music has progressed since that which was collected on Phantoms Of Dreamland?
After doing the original record in 1983, which was basically ignored at the time, I went more “commercial” playing with bands, and eventually touring Europe, which is the reason I ended up living in Switzerland. Here I have been working as a producer, and musician, playing quite a lot of jazz and even country music.
I created a pop band in the mid 2000s, which released three CDs and two online albums. I also wrote the score for a musical with horses and I have produced almost 30 albums for various artists.
1. Jon Hassell – live track
2. Jon Hassell – Ba-Benzele
3. Holger Czukay – On the Way to the Peak of Normal
4. Jon Hassell – Empire iii
5. Jon Hassell – Toucan Ocean
6. Holger Czukay – Ode to Perfume
7. Jon Hassell – Gift of Fire
8. Blurt – Tube Plane
9. Jon Hassell – Charm
10. Jon Hassell – Paris 1
11. Holger Czukay – Persian Love
Jun112018| June 11, 2018
Gospel rnb, IKEA techno and horrific synths.
Talk about DIY… This week’s new music begins with flat pack intensity and Bell Towers’ playful ‘IKEA Hack’ – an ode to the Expedit that might frighten you just as much as Death Waltz’ latest 10″ of Campfire Creepers, or Black Midi’s first ever appearance on wax with ‘bmbmbm’.
In the album’s box, we’ve got new music from Fourth World master Jon Hassell (so good he coined a whole genre for himself), nimble beats, video game idents and detuned dial tones from Proc Fiskal on Hyperdub, and a ravishing debut from Björk collaborator serpentwithfeet.
Scroll down for our definitive across-the-board rundown of the week’s new vinyl releases as selected by The Vinyl Factory’s Chris Summers, Patrick Ryder and James Hammond with help from Norman Records. 5 singles and 5 LPs every 7 days that are unmissable additions to any collection.
Bell Towers and Public Possession return for another killer collab, this time plucking ‘Ikea Hack’ straight off the S/S19 catwalk, and leading it to the dance floor. The Dance Mix finds a snug middle ground between ’80s synth and techno, while the Chillout Mix is a wry and playful Balearic floater, with a touch of Will Powers satire about it. XL homeboy Baba Stiltz provides the flat pack finish, with a deconstructed house rework on the flip.
(Rhymes of an Hour)
Lovely understated return from the slo-mo West coast duo. They might not be in any hurry to do anything in particular, but Mazzy Star always exist happily in their own hazy and sultry headspace.
(Death Waltz Recording Company)
As a Virtual Reality anthology horror series directed by Alexandre Aja and starring Robert Englund (aka Freddie Kruger), this soundtrack by Rob comes as a perfect fit in its pairing of current technology and production techniques with a look back to vintage B-movie aesthetics. Synth arpeggiations, choral voices and tense atmospheres abound on a sufficiently garish blood red 10” vinyl edition.
Here’s the first ever release on vinyl by Black Midi – and trust Speedy Wunderground to be the ones on it. Whipping up a mixture of angular post rock with some killer hooks, ‘bmbmbm’ is the perfect example of where this band are at right now. Who knows where they will end up.
Paris Edits Volume 5
Holy mirror ball Batman – cop a load of this! Flying the flag for longevity in an age obsessed with novelty and hype, G.A.M.M. have consistently delivered the goods for fifteen years now, racking up well over a century of floor-filling releases in the process. Their latest dance floor banger comes courtesy of Parisian producer Young Pulse, who decimates the competition this week with the finest disco edit I’ve heard in years. Taking two 30 second breaks from Billy Paul’s impassioned but sadly saccharine ‘Only The Strong Survive’, Young Pulse nixes the naff and gets creative to deliver a relentless disco-funk slammer à la Ugly Edits or Black Cock. Backed with a decent extension of Greg Henderson’s ‘Dreamin”, this is another platter that matters from the long-running label.
Listening to Pictures (Portimento Volume 1)
Listen / Buy
Jon Hassell coined the term ‘Fourth World’ music back in the early 1970s and has set about terraforming culture into new shapes and music ever since. This is his first LP in nine years and with Hassell now in his eighties, Listening to Pictures shows that his appetite for adventurous sounds has far from dulled. A welcome addition to a storied discography, here his distinctive sampling/resampling approach and singular voice on the trumpet weaves out another densely textured musical fabric of outernational sound.
Their bassist might be called Alex Bass, but don’t let that distract you from Lindsey Jordan’s intuitive songwriting and their pop-punk approach to indie rock. Snail Mail’s Lush shines like the sort of stuff we’ve been hearing in bands like Soccer Mommy and Bully.
Edinburgh’s Proc Fiskal puts the gun fingers in the holster on this debut LP, diverting the energy and angst of grime into a calming collage of nimble beats, video game idents and detuned dial tones. Embracing digital melodies, airy synth parts and skittering hi-hats, the 23 year old sidesteps any hint of stodgy sub bass, showcasing a light touch absent from many of his contemporaries. Detailed, nuanced and inventive, Insula is forward thinking electronica which splits the difference between Aphex, Visible Cloaks and Terror Danjah.
It All Worked Out Great
This is the first release on Idles singer Joe Talbot’s new label Balley. It’s a compilation of Bristol band Lice’s first two EPs, now cleaned up and glued together for your listening pleasure. Thank god for bands like Lice who appear to look to The Bad Seeds, Pere Ubu, P.I.L. and The Fall, but make a sound that’s all their own.
serpentwithfeet’s debut on Secretly Canadian opens with ‘Whisper’ – a baroque ballad of ominous intensity, that showcases the quivering depth of Josiah Wise’s voice (on ‘mourning song’ he laments that it is ‘way too deep’), which moves between registers with virtuosic ease. Wise’s gospel influences are on show on the bumpin’ organ driven ‘wrong tree’, supporting a righteous deliverance that is both as fragile as Moses Sumney, and assertive as Michael Jackson. Deconstructed arrangements, which hint at previous work with Haxan Cloak and Björk, are married to the theatre of Wise’s vocal trills across a wonderfully original album – a secular rnb devotional unlike anything else we’ve heard.
“The more invisible technology becomes, the better it is”: The multi-dimensional genius of Jon Hassell| June 8, 2018
Fourth World originator Jon Hassell’s first new album in a decade, Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One), is released this week. Hassell talks to Chris May about Fourth World aesthetics, the painterly concept of pentimento, Stockhausen, exotica and why the new record is dedicated to the artist Mati Klarwein.
Hassell introduced Fourth World music in the late 1970s and refined it at the turn of the decade on Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics and Dream Theory In Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two. There is an umbilical cord directly linking the Fourth World albums with the style’s latest incarnation, Listening To Pictures, a masterpiece which will delight admirers of the earlier albums while also delivering some surprises.
Hassell’s adoption of the Italian term “pentimento” to describe the new album followed a recent “eureka” moment. In art, the word refers to the appearance in a painting of existing images or brushstrokes that have been altered in some fashion and then placed in new contexts. Applied to Hassell’s music, pentimento describes fragments of found sounds or performances that have been sampled, manipulated and recontextualised. As Hassell explains below, Listening To Pictures employs pentimento both in the sleeve art and in the grooves.
Listening To Pictures is dedicated to the late Mati Klarwein. Klarwein shook up record sleeve design with the cover of Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew in 1970 and went on to create several sleeves for Hassell including Dream Theory In Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two. The new album also connects to Klarwein through a recording of what Hassell calls a “goat gamelan”, which he taped while staying at Klarwein’s house in Majorca in 1995. The name of Hassell’s newly formed label, Ndeya, also references the Majorcan village Deya, where Klarwein lived.
Pentimento is an elegant metaphor with which to describe the process of making Listening To Pictures. But you were in effect using the same technique on the Fourth World albums. Is it the metaphor that is new rather than the process?
It is more the metaphor that is new, yes. But a metaphor can change the way you think about things. Over the last year, making Listening To Pictures, I’ve been doing a lot of manipulation of sounds. When I’m in the studio and using 24 tracks and the software that’s available these days, there is this gigantic library of sounds. That’s really where the idea of pentimento caught fire in my imagination. I thought, what else is 24-track recording except pentimento? Layers are scratched off and other layers show through – or you can have a temporal pentimento à la Natalie Cole and Nat Cole [Natalie doing a virtual duet with her late father on his 1951 hit ‘Unforgettable’ in 1991]. But I thought the idea of pentimento, of a painting or a fresco with something that was done before showing through, was an attractive metaphor to describe the starting point of something new.
The album’s sleeve uses pentimento in the traditional art-world meaning of the word.
It’s a pentimento of near and far in terms of both time and space. That’s the Nile she’s holding on to. It goes between her legs in the uncropped version. The Nile and those geometric surfaces are actually the satellite shot on the cover of Fourth World Volume One. The girl is the cover of a Hindu pulp-romance magazine that I brought back from India when I was studying raga with Pandit Pran Nath [in the mid 1970s]. The view through venetian blinds is of plants outside my bedroom window.
When Pran Nath accelerated your thinking about Fourth World music, “exotic” music required effort to access. Today, music from everywhere is available on a smartphone. Does the Fourth World concept still mean something?
It will become meaningless if it becomes a cliché, but I don’t think it has reached that point yet. To me, Fourth World is still a useful description. It conveys the idea of the best of this world and the best of that world – the idea of not simply championing one side over the other, the idea that they’re all equal. Though I can easily launch into some championing of the south in the north/south [economic and cultural divide] debate. I can definitely champion the south side more readily than I can champion the north side.
You have long been ahead of the curve there. How about exotica composers such as Les Baxter in the 1950s? Would you agree that they were also early exemplars of outward-looking music making?
I was aware of exotica when I was starting out and I loved it. I still love it. I did a couple of things in that direction and I’ve always enjoyed Les Baxter. When I was young, that was what was available in world music terms. The snaky cobra woman kind of vibe or the Tarzan movies that had jungly music, albeit written by exiled European composers. It’s been a big love of mine ever since. Those arrangements that Les Baxter did for Yma Sumac, those are incredible.
How important has advancing technology been in enabling your music? Do you think you would have continued in the same direction if the world had stayed analogue?
It’s always a matter of working with whatever tools are available at the time. Technology has opened up possibilities for me from the start. When I started learning to play raga on the trumpet – trying to sway, trying to play the curves – I started thinking to myself, the trumpet’s a lonely instrument so why don’t I add another trumpeter? And the harmoniser allowed me to do that. The realisation that through technology you could make a monophonic instrument into a polyphonic instrument, so to speak, was wonderful. And the more the technology becomes invisible, the better it is. But we don’t ever want to lose the joy of hearing a string vibrate up close, or lose any [acoustic] instrument that you might find in a so-called unsophisticated culture. The raw sound of Pygmy music, for instance, or imitating bird calls and so on. These are joyful things.
Do you think modern technology presents any sort of threat to music? Generative music’s bypass of a human compass, for instance?
I don’t think there’s anything to be eschewed, to be denied – if it sounds good it’s open season. I was thinking about Stockhausen recently and what first attracted me to his music. The first piece that drew me to him was Gesang der Jünglinge [electronically assembled in a radio studio in 1955]. It was made à la musique concrète, using samples of a choir boy’s voice. The whole structure was in an atonal mode and was done in such a way that the voice came out like sine tones. But it was made in such a very warm, humanised fashion. On the other hand, you can carry the electronic thing too far. We are too deep now into being digitized ourselves. We’re being formatted, being asked to accept only things which are made for us to imbibe by, say, Google. On that level technology has taken over. We’re simply puppets.
Are you working on any new tech yourself?
Oh certainly. I’ve got notes on ideas that are really extensions of things that exist already. I have an idea for a certain kind of harmoniser which is not just something that replicates the input. It would be much more refined than that. But I’d better not say too much about it or someone else will do it first!
Your friendship with Mati Klarwein inspired the name of your new record label. Did it make any direct input into Listening To Pictures?
Flocks of goats roamed in the hills [near Klarwein’s house on Majorca], each one with a slightly different neck bell. One balmy summer midnight in 1995 when I was staying there, I stayed awake to record the floating, constantly changing “gamelan” that enters in the distant background of [the track] ‘Pastorale Vassant’. When I was asked to say something about the piece recently, I listened again and, sure enough, Twittering Machine, the title of a Paul Klee painting popped into my mind. Although I knew his work for years and his Pedagogical Sketchbook was in my library, the “twittering “ title was what stuck to me and I had only a vague memory of the painting. But when I looked at the painting while listening I was amazed at how they reflected off one another in a kind of unintended “tone painting” way, where the picture sounds like the music and vice versa.
Listening To Pictures is subtitled Pentimento Volume One. Is the next volume in the can?
Almost. We had over an hour’s worth of music and somebody had the idea, we’re in a world of shortened attention spans, so why don’t we break it up into two? I’m still doing adjustments to what will be in the second volume. I’m responding to the first volume and thinking what I would like to hear next, what would represent an extension and/or a continuation of it.
Jon Hassell’s Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One) is out now on Ndeya Records.
Jun062018| June 6, 2018
Next month’s wantlist.
We’ve combed through the pre-orders, promos and release listings so that you don’t have to, showcasing a diverse selection of music from our favourite artists and labels, alongside newcomers we think you need to hear.
Far from being doctrinal about it, we’ve extended June’s selection by five to capture just how much music we’re excited about this month. Expect dance floor mutations from Syclops, Martyn and Mutant Dance Beat, soulful musings from Kadhja Bonet and Sudan Archives, the spiritual awakenings of Kamasi Washington, Tenderlonious and Jimi Tenor, and a masterclass in ambient extroversion courtesy of Kate NV and the inimitable Jon Hassell.
Due: 8th June
From the moment we heard this Hilary Woods debut a few months ago, its inclusion was a given. The Dublin-born multi-instrumentalist channels the tender and assertive sound of Grouper and Lynch Collaborator Julee Cruise, weaving a sound world that is at once surreal and comforting – like finding a perverse joy in the depths of grief and loneliness.
Order Of Nothingness
Due: 8th June
Helsinki’s idiosyncratic multi-instrumentalist Jimi Tenor is something of a cult figure whose strains of wonky, jazz-inflected Afrobeat are beginning to sound very much like the Finish mushrooms he picks on his days off. With a CV that includes countless collaborations (not least with Tony Allen), here Tenor flits between a variety of horns and a shelved Extravoice keyboard to craft a record that blooms with psychedelic intensity and a wry playfulness that makes Connan Mockasin look positively earnest.
Listen / Buy
Due: 8th June
Kadhja Bonet fuses soul and rnb vocals with classical and jazz-hued orchestrals in her second LP Childqueen. In the hands of a lesser singer the mix might verge on cloying, but not so with Bonet. If you’re in need of convincing, look no further than its first single ‘Delphine’, followed by ‘Mother Maybe’ with a sublime vocal breakdown at 3 minutes in, to wholly assuage you.
Listening To Pictures
Due: 8th June
Fourth World progenitor and legendary ambient musician, Jon Hassell launches his new Ndaya label with the release of his first record in nearly a decade. Apparently it is inspired by the process of vertical listening, which is “letting your inner ears scan up and down the sonic spectrum, asking what kind of “shapes” you’re seeing, then noticing how that picture morphs as the music moves through Time,” explains Hassell. If you’re rather confused by what that means exactly, you’re not alone. But with a record that sounds as beautiful as Listening To Pictures, no matter what direction it comes from we’re all ears.
The Shakedown ft. The 22archestra
Due: 15th June
Cut in one single frantic 8-hour session during downtime at Abbey Road Studios, Tenderlonious’ debut proper has been teased in the last few months with a couple of tantalizing 7”s that have sold out in minutes. Alongside elements of his shape-shifting label house band (here including Yussef Dayes, Jean Bassa & more), Tenderlonious forges a record that fizzes with the speed and intuition of its creation, assimilating diverse influences like Yussef Lateef, Slum Village and Good Lookin’ Record without a moment to catch breath.
Here Lies Man
You Will Know Nothing
(Riding Easy Records)
Due: 15th June
A wild-card in last year’s favourite albums list, LA outfit Here Lies Man return with a second sucker-punch of distorted, psychedelic. The massive riffs remain, but it’s the rhythmic muscle bursting out from behind a wall of fuzzed-out psychedelic that really propels You Will Know Nothing to new realms.
(Running Back // Bubbletease Communications)
Due: 15th June
House pioneer Maurice Fulton is having one helluva year. Following the news that he’s produced a new collaborative 4×12″ series with Róisín Murphy, Fulton resurrects his experimental electro arm Syclops in fine fashion. Released digitally in the spring, Pink Eye gets a much deserved vinyl outing this June. Though less disco hued than I’ve Got My Eye On You, there are certified 100% rump shakers lying amidst these delightful weirdo musings.
Nothing Is Still
Due: 15th June
Though technically his first full length album, Leon Vynehall has been releasing singular, instrumentally-led dance EPs (and medium-Ps) since 2012. If you’re unfamiliar, Music For The Uninvited with the essential ‘It’s Just (House of Dupree)’, Butterflies, Midnight on the Rainbow Road, and Rojus are must peeps, the kinds of records that thrill on first listen but absolutely get better with age. Inspired by photographs Vynehall discovered of his grandparents, Nothing Is Still takes his sounds away from formal dance floor machinations and into more ethereal – though no less impactful – terrain.
Gang Gang Dance
Due: 22nd June
Absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder, but seven years on and news of Gang Gang Dance’s return has revived an awful lot of positive sentiment towards the experimental Brooklyn outfit. Lead track ‘Lotus’ already has the dreamy gravitas you’d expect from a comeback that deserves every bit of anticipation it’s receiving.
Heaven & Earth
Due: 22nd June
How much grander can you go, Kamasi? The saxophonist who named his 3-LP debut The Epic, delivers his answer in the form of 150-minute Heaven & Earth LP this month, unloading a thunderous cascade of Black Jazz-esque spirituals and fevered improvisations across four discs. Like the second season of a Netflix show that has had its budget bumped off the back of rave ratings, Heaven & Earth is given a bombastic sonic upgrade thanks to the irrepressible chorus and orchestra on what promises to be an expansive addition to Kamasi’s canon. A massive effort, without doubt, but will somebody please find this man an editor?!
Due: 22nd June
Martyn’s signature post-dubstep meets UK garage sounds mixed with Nyabinghi, drum ‘n’ bass, and gqom, in fourth studio album Voids. Recorded in the wake of his recovery from a heart attack, unlike previous LPs, Voids doesn’t feature any guest appearances. Lucky for us, this solo outing leaves Martyn to explore his own percussive swings and roundabouts to the fullest – creating nine tracks that are filled with sheer rhythmic pizzazz, regardless of what genre you think they fall under.
Due: 22nd June
Who knew the violin could sound so badass? Producer and vocalist Sudan Archives, that’s who. Given the love for her lauded debut self-titled EP, our favourite 12″ of 2017, the stakes (and anticipation) levels were high for what came next. With Sink, SA doesn’t fail to disappoint in the slightest. Weaving violin with electronics, North African influences and samples, she crafts six tracks that range from rnb ballads to the kinds of glitched-out beat explorations that’d make someone like Dilla proud. A stellar EP from one of the most unique and exciting new musicians we’ve heard (and seen) in time. A word to the wise: if you get a chance to see her live, don’t sleep.
Binker & Moses
Alive In The East?
Due: 22nd June
Almost bang on a year after the release of their album Journey To The Mountain of Forever – one of our favourite albums of 2017 – tenor saxophonist and drummer duo Binker & Moses are back. “A companion piece to Journey to the Mountain of Forever” and “full of vehement improvisation and shamanic spiritual free jazz trances”, its 10 tracks serve up heavy and hypnotic rhythms to suit all whims and fancies. Yazz to the continuing ascent of UK ‘jazz’.
Due: 22nd June
Although Kate NV’s RVNG Intl. debut is billed as a score to her native Moscow, it unfolds as though viewing the city in a petri dish – a magnificent, magnified symphony. Sharing some of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s ability to bend electronic instrumentation into organic forms, like mutating microorganisms, для FOR is an intoxicating and inviting record that stands apart from the city to create a feeling of deep and utopian calm.
Mutant Dance Beat
Mutant Dance Beat
Due: 29th June
You simply can’t call your outfit Mutant Dance Beat and expect people not to take notice. Traxx and Beau Wanzer bringing in Steve Summers for this 200-minute epic, that will be delivered across six records of varying formats (12”, 10” and 7”), and features what the label arresting calls “funky grooves, industrial soundscapes, nu age dancehouze, prototype disco dub, Detroit dirge, cryptic ankle bitter anthems and even a punk cover collaborating with members of LCD Soundsystem.” This one already sounds essential for those who like their dance floors on the gnarly side of respectable.
Apr052018| April 5, 2018
Hear its beautiful first single.
Fourth World founder, composer and musician Jon Hassell is releasing new album Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume 1), this June via Ndeya.
Read more: An introduction to Jon Hassell in 10 records
The LP is Hassell’s first new material in nine years, and follows 2017’s Dream Theory In Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two reissue.
“Most of the world is listening to music in terms of forward flow – based on where the music is “going” and “what comes NEXT.” But there’s another angle: Vertical listening is about listening to “what’s happening NOW” – letting your inner ears scan up and down the sonic spectrum, asking what kind of “shapes” you’re seeing, then noticing how that picture morphs as the music moves through Time,” explains Hassell.
“Robert Irwin’s subtle art installations are based on what he calls “perceiving yourself perceiving.” Vertical listening is related to “listening to yourself listening. So this is where the title Listening to Pictures comes from: The process of vertical listening creates the picture.”
Listening to Pictures will mark the inaugural release on Hassell’s new Ndaya imprint, a label dedicated to both new and archival releases.
Pre-order a copy of the album here ahead of its 8th June release, and check out the track list below.
4. Al Kongo Udu
5. Pastorale Vassant
6. Manga Scene
7. Her First Rain
(Photo by Roman Koval.)
Sep192017| September 19, 2017
To mark the first vinyl reissue since 1987 of Jon Hassell’s landmark album Dream Theory In Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two, Chris May suggests a ten-disc primer on a trumpeter and composer who defies categorisation.
Hassell is best known as the creator of Fourth World music, an acoustic-electronic blend of minimalism, jazz, drone, ambient, traditional African and Asian instruments and harmolodic signatures. Hassell unveiled the concept on his debut album, Vernal Equinox, in 1978. The name Fourth World came two years later, on Hassell’s first collaboration with Brian Eno, Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics.
Hassell’s roots go back to the early days of modern minimalism in the US. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen at the Centre for New Music in Cologne in the mid 1960s, Hassell returned to the US and fell in with Terry Riley and La Monte Young. He played on the first recording of Riley’s In C in 1968, and toured and recorded with Young’s Theatre Of Eternal Music collective.
In 1972, on a European tour with Young, he heard the Indian singer Pandit Pran Nath, who was performing on the same concert programme in Rome. Encountering Nath’s microtonal Kirani style was a profound, life-changing experience for Hassell and he persuaded Young and Riley to join him on an extended trip to India to study with the singer.
Hassell’s unique, transcultural approach to the trumpet – raga-like, microtone-inflected, half sung and half blown, breathy and allusive – developed out of these studies. In the four decades since Vernal Equinox he has not fundamentally changed his aesthetic, simply refined it as advances in audio technology have opened up new possibilities.
On most of his own-name releases since 1980, Hassell plays synthesisers as well as trumpet, and does so on all the records listed below unless stated otherwise. If you have yet to hear his music, prepare to have your paradigm shifted.
La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela: The Theatre Of Eternal Music
Dream House 78’17”
(Shandar LP, 1974)
Hassell’s minimalist period is documented on two historic albums – Terry Riley’s first recording of his seminal composition In C, released in 1968, which also included Hassell’s wife on piano, and La Monte Young’s Dream House 78’17”. Young performs one side on his own, using custom-built oscillators to create hypnotic sine-wave drones. On the other side he is joined by Hassell on trumpet, Marian Zazeela on voice and Garrett List on trombone. 78’17” is the total playing time of the album, a technical feat which delivers an intensely immersive outcome. Aguirre Records reissued the LP in 2016.
(Lovely LP, 1978)
Hassell’s roadmap for four decades of Fourth World exploration, Vernal Equinox, his own-name debut, is a pioneering blend of electronics and non-Western ingredients. He is accompanied by percussionist Naná Vasconcelos and lead synthesizer-player David Rosenboom (who had played viola on the 1968 recording of Riley’s In C). In 1976, synthesizers were far from standard studio equipment, and most of Vernal Equinox was recorded at Toronto’s York University, where Rosenboom was the director of the well-equipped Electronic Media Studios and Laboratory of Experimental Aesthetics. A perfectly realised manifesto.
(Tomato LP, 1978)
Recorded around the same time as Vernal Equinox, Earthquake Island is the most conventional album Hassell has released under his own name – though with Hassell, “conventional” is a relative term. The sound approximates a mid-1970s Miles Davis album, but is less dense and lacks as many dark corners. The band includes tabla player Badal Roy from Davis’s group and bassist Miroslav Vitouš and drummer Dom Um Romão from Weather Report. Sandwiched as it is between more overtly experimental albums, Earthquake Island tends to get overlooked, but unfairly. If you are in the mood for some jazz-rock with your Fourth World, it hits the spot.
Jon Hassell / Brian Eno
Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics
(Editions EG LP, 1980)
Hassell and Eno were a studio partnership made in heaven and this is the first of two back-to-back collaborations of flawless beauty. The atmosphere owes something to the studio techniques developed on Eno’s Ambient 1 (Music For Airports), but more to the transculturalism of Vernal Equinox, and it was not by accident that Hassell’s name was first up on the front cover. ‘Charm (Over ‘Burundi Cloud’)’, which takes up all of side two – with Vaconcelos joined by second percussionist Ayibe Dieng and Eno replacing Rosenboom on synthesizers – is particularly effective. Even the best partnerships, however, can run into difficulties…
Dream Theory In Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two
(Editions EG LP, 1981)
Possible Musics was a succès d’estime for which most of the acclaim accrued to Eno rather than its little-known primary creator. As Eno embarked on high-profile, Fourth World-inspired collaborations with other musicians, beginning with David Byrne’s My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts3, Hassell felt that a wholesale appropriation of his ideas was going on. He has said he reached tipping point when he came across Possible Musics racked under “Brian Eno” in a New York record store. So while Eno contributed to Dream Theory In Malaya as mixer and musician, his name does not appear on the front cover and the sleeve credits unambiguously state, “All compositions by Jon Hassell. Produced by Jon Hassell.” Peter Gabriel was so enthused by the album that he booked Hassell for the first WOMAD festival in 1982.
Aka-Darbari-Java: Magic Realism
(EG LP, 1983)
Parting company with Eno – temporarily as it turned out – Hassell co-produced Magic Realism with Daniel Lanois, who had engineered Dream Theory. Hassell’s liner notes describe the new album as the blueprint for a “coffee-coloured classical music of the future,” in which the “allowable” musical vocabulary is expanded to include influences from beyond the European tradition, creating “serious music” with transcultural appeal and a smile – a precise definition of Fourth World. Hindustani raga, Senegalese ritual drum-music, Central African Pygmy songs and faux-gamelan Balinese soundscapes are luminously reimagined by Hassell and his sole accompanist, percussionist Abdou M’Boup.
Words With The Shaman
(Virgin EP, 1985)
Another relatively conventional outing for Hassell, Words With The Shaman replaces the jazz-rock of Earthquake Island with European avant-rock. The musicians are ex-Japan vocalist Sylvian on synthesizers and guitars, Hassell on trumpet, Can bassist Holger Czukay on radio and dictaphone, Percy Jones, from guitarist Bill Frisell’s band, on bass guitar and Japan’s Steve Jansen on drums. A three-piece suite composed by Sylvian and Hassell, the music grew out of fragments from Sylvian’s 1984 album Brilliant Trees, for which Hassell wrote the title tune and guested on two tracks. A miniature masterpiece.
(ECM LP, 1986)
Hassell’s irritation with the way music journalists had cast Brian Eno as the inventor of the Fourth World concept did not extend to Eno personally – or if it did, it was short-lived. The partnership resumed with Power Spot, which Eno co-produced with Daniel Lanois. The mood switches between an uncomplicated propulsive drive similar to that on the second section of Words With The Shaman and the dreamier, more asymmetrical approach typically associated with Hassell.
City: Works Of Fiction
(Land LP, 1990)
Hassell has said that his intention with the EDM-focused City: Works Of Fiction was to “explore my own back yard.” The Fourth World concept was extended to accommodate incursions into hip-hop, techno and dub, and the album has an altogether more in-your-face ambience than Hassell usually favoured. For the first time, he also made liberal use of samples, from Kenyan field recordings of Maasai hunting calls to fragments of hip-hop. The experiment, an unqualified success, was continued on 1994’s Dressing For Pleasure (which has yet to be released on vinyl).
Last Night The Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes In The Street
(ECM 2xLP, 2009)
Hassell’s second ECM Records album augments his Maarifa Street touring band with some of the electronicists and beyond-jazz stylists with whom he had collaborated on several occasions at Norway’s adventurous Punkt festival. The stellar line-up includes live sampler Jan Bang, guitarist Eivind Aarset, percussionist Helge Norbakken, bassist Peter Freeman and Was (Not Was) keyboard player Jamie Muhoberac. As breathtakingly inventive as Vernal Equinox was 30 years earlier.
Aug142017| August 14, 2017
“Exotically tuned melodies” inspired by tribal Malaysian dreams.
Dream Theory in Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two is being remastered and reissued on vinyl for the first time since its 1981 release, by Glitterbeat’s new imprint tak:til.
A follow-up to Hassell’s Fourth World Vol.1 – Possible Musics collaboration with Brian Eno, the LP was inspired by a “highland tribe of Malayan aborigines whose happiness and well-being were linked to their morning custom of family dream-telling – where a child’s fearful dream of fallings was praised as a gift,” said Hassell in the album’s original liner notes.
“Someplace I ran across an essay called Dream Theory in Malaya by an adventurer-ethonologist named Kilton Stewart describing a “dream tribe” – the Senoi – in Malaya (before it became “Malaysia”). Soon I’m having an affair with the cinematic sound of the world “Malaya” and all that it evokes: exotically-tuned melodies, gongs, birdcalls in the jungle.”
Hassell also took inspiration from a “beautiful watersplash rhythm with giggling children and birds from a tribe – the Semelai… that became the basis for “Malay”, the centrepiece of the record.”
The release includes bonus track ‘Ordinary Mind’, original liner notes written by Jon Hassell, as well as his updated musings on the album.
“Brian (Eno) is probably under-credited on this record – maybe a reactionary move on my part to reaffirm an independent identity after the experience of finding Possible Musics – my music – in the “Eno” bin in record stores.”
Pre-order a copy here ahead of its 29th September 2017 release and listen to track ‘Malay’ below.
Sep122014| September 12, 2014
One of the most distinctive record cover artists of all time, The Vinyl Factory introduces the ten most important sleeves by Mati Klarwein, from Miles Davis’ iconic Bitches Brew to early Earth, Wind & Fire and the incediary “phantastic realism” of The Last Poets’ seminal This Is Madness.
Joining the dots with Abdul Mati Klarwein’s artwork for music is an intriguing process – when looking upon his most widely seen images for Santana’s Abraxas and Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, there’s been many an epiphany that despite their differences they’re indeed from the same surrealist brush, a brush that blurs boundaries and cross-pollinates cultural iconography and imagery into new abstractions. A true citizen of the world, Klarwein was friends with many of those whom he provided artwork for – from Jimi Hendrix to Miles Davis to Jon Hassell – with the last two in particular finding a profound marriage of sound and image in their collaboration with Mati. To look upon his works with them is to set an enticing and charged precedent to the sounds within.
The period of 1969-1972 was key to Mati’s works in this medium, a time where he was surrounded by the movers and shakers of the zeitgeist, and a time where LP artwork and production was still in its heyday. As such Mati thrived on this format and a CD cover is a pale comparison to cracking open a gatefold and allowing the two sides of a Klarwein vista to become apparent. His work in this medium was occasionally commissioned and more commonly appropriated, and produced 52 record covers in total (all fantastically compiled in an LP sized book by Serge Bramly), the list below serves as an introduction to 10 of his most distinctive images.
We’ve created a playlist (below) of nine tracks chosen from the records in this list which you can listen to as you read, you can listen to them individually as you scroll.
It would be hard to start a list of Mati’s work for music without Bitches Brew taking pride of place – a cover that’s as potent as the fearless music within. It’s of no surprise that the art world of the time had as much trouble getting their head around the cover, as the jazz world did with Miles’ new direction. Its influence is still felt at a glance on upcoming record releases at any given time, and back in the early 70s it definitely set a trend in motion – see Robert Springett’s cover for Herbie Hancock’s Sextant to see the Klarwein influence in full effect. The painting itself was sold in the 1970s and its location is unfortunately still unknown, not even Miles managed to track it down when he sought to buy it back in the 80s.
Unreleased / And a Happy New Year
This portrait of Jimi Hendrix was painted for a planned Hendrix / Gil Evans collaboration that never happened due to Hendrix’s death. As with many of Hendrix’s planned projects, it pointed to more essential work ahead, and this image and Gil Evans orchestral interpretations of Hendrix’s back-catalogue are what remain of the plan. The portrait seems to have troubled Mati as it was completed right before Hendrix’s overdose, and given a series of coincidences with death around his portraits, Mati stated it as one of events that led to him moving towards still life painting. The portrait did eventually find its way onto vinyl in quite a different form – as 7” picture discs and 12” seasonal promos that included Hendrix covers of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and ‘Silent Night’.
This was the release that exposed Mati’s work to the masses with it selling over 2 million copies on its first year of release. The original painting ‘Annunciation’ dates from 1961, and was originally a key part of Mati’s ‘Aleph Sanctuary’ – a transportable cube of his images, within which his world was unveiled in full focus. Jimi Hendrix and Timothy Leary both spent time within the sanctuary (Leary reportedly for a 4 day lysergic stretch), and it was upon seeing photos of the sanctuary in a magazine that Carlos Santana found a match to the music made for Abraxas.
Aka Dabari Java
(Editions EG 1983)
Jon Hassell’s Fourth World music found a true soul mate in Mati Klarwein and many of Hassell’s finest LPs are adorned with Mati’s artwork. In a recent interview with Jon he informed me that Mati’s “vinyl collection was as varied and geographically promiscuous as his paintings for Miles and Santana LPs whose cover size invited original work like this.” Hanging out and listening to records together from 1976 onward, many of their ideas found a parallel, and the music and cover of Aka Dabari Java is testament to this. This ‘Inscape’ style found it’s way onto several other covers from the mid seventies onwards, reflecting Mati’s increased work in this area and his infatuation with the landscape of his Majorcan home.
Earth Wind and Fire
Last Days and Time
Enamored with the works and writing of Salvador Dali at a young age, the Dali influence is a constant, but far from defining. Here it’s clear but still distinct to Klarwein – florid psychedelia, copulating with fire, weather, the human mind and the cosmos – and fitting to the bands namesake of course. It may be a touch too day-glo and kitsch for some, but those elements are indeed a part of the Klarwein spectrum (and for the love of god don’t look at the rest of the Earth, Wind and Fire artwork if this turns you off).
Mirroring the Live-Evil format of the double LP, Miles opted for a pre-existing image for the front – the ‘Live’ section – and then asked Mati to create a mirror image of ‘Evil’ for the back. What Klarwein conjured was J. Edgar Hoover as a toad-come-duck-come intestinal mutant lard-ball with a blonde beehive. Ever the cosmic joker it’s as humorous as it is politicized, and makes for a stunning diptych, and the music is, as you might expect, sublime.
This is the cover to the second edition of Iron Man with the first featuring a comparatively simple photo of Dolphy in the studio. Klarwein took this photo and painted Dolphy’s image from it onto his ‘Birth Mandala’, and hey presto we have something totally other. Religious iconography was a vital fuel to the fire of his imagination, and mandalas or at least abstractions of their concept are present in many of his works.
(Blue Note 1969)
Testament to the detail and individual zones of Klarwein’s painting this is a cropped portrait taken from 1965’s ‘New York Angel’. Whilst she’s been clipped of her wings it still makes a beautiful cover for Reuben Wilson’s organ works. This was Klarwein’s second cover for Blue Note, with the other being for Jackie McLean.
The Last Poets
This is Madness
This gatefold opens out on to a mirror image of the Last Poets universe in full vibrancy. The technique Klarwein used on these works was taught to him by “phantastic realism” master Ernst Fuchs and stems from Jan Van Eyck’s layering of casein tempera, and translucent oil colors. Klarwein enthused that Van Eyck’s works glowed in the dark as a result of this technique, and you can certainly see the luminous results here. ‘Zonked’, a work for a shelved Miles Davis album, later appeared as the cover of the Last Poets’ Holy Terror.
This is another curiosity amongst Mati’s works in that he created this portrait as a fan of Lateef’s music and in the hope that he would use it as a record cover. Lateef showed a great deal of initial interest in his correspondence with Abdul Mati, but upon meeting face to face and discovering Klarwein was white, he refused to talk on the matter. Reasoning aside (it should be noted that Lateef worked with white musicians in his career), the image still shines through as one of Klarwein’s finest musically inspired works that didn’t make the cover.
“If the music is good it’ll play anywhere”: Jon Hassell on his seminal ambient work City: Works of Fiction| July 24, 2014
He’s worked with Brian Eno, David Byrne and Karl Heinz Stockhausen, been remixed by 808 State, and samples everything from Massai hunting calls to Public Enemy. It’s safe to say that trumpet player and composer Jon Hassell is not your average ambient musician. Now, his seminal 1990 LP City: Works oF Fiction is getting the full on reissue treatment via All Saints Records, in a package that not only includes the original 808 State remix but more recent contributions from patten, No UFO’s and Bass Clef. The Vinyl Factory’s James Hammond spoke to Jon from his home in LA to get to grips with this hugely important body of work.
City: Works of Fiction
(All Saints / Opal Records, 2014 / 1990)
“I’m always listening for a thrilling sonic picture” writes Jon Hassell from his Los Angeles home, “this with that in the same frame equals a suggestion of some time and place I’ve experienced or that I hope to experience.” 1990’s City: Works of Fiction is one such picture- recently reissued and expanded by All Saints records- it’s a sonic space to inhabit, a melding of the imagined cities of Italo Calvino and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, with sounds ranging from Massai hunting calls to Public Enemy samples, and of course, Hassell’s distinct voicings on the trumpet.
Such an eclectic pool of inspiration and material is the standard with Hassell, who has been reconciling the disparate, and terraforming culture into new shapes and musics since the early 70s, under the banner of what he coined ‘Fourth World’ music. A concept of cross pollinating East and West, North and South to a point of abstraction, Fourth World sounds are envisioned as a blend which is both cerebral and corporeal, and extrapolated in vision through an embrace, or indeed, the copulation of different technologies. A plundering of culture in the vein of musical imperialism it is not, Hassell’s embodiment of the concept has been one of innovation – casting inspirations anew with an awareness of such dubious terms as ‘cultural purity’.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, it was this city that first expanded the horizons of Hassell’s curious ear, “My sister worked for the local distributor for Capitol Records and would bring home lots of vinyl that was certainly influential. How did she know to put Miles [Davis] and Gerry Mulligan and Stan Kenton on my plate? Or what was it that attracted me there, with Johnny Cash’s tour station wagon parked outside, smack-dab in the middle of gritty blues on the first black radio station WDIA? (Be assured Elvis was listening.)”
From Memphis outwards, via extensive travels, studies in Berlin and New York, and a long list of teachers and collaborators including Stockhausen, Pandit Pran Nath, Terry Riley, Mati Klarwein, Brian Eno and David Byrne (the latter two paraphrasing his ideas for My Life in The Bush of Ghosts) Hassell settled in LA, his home for the past 30 or so years and where he recorded City: Works of Fiction. Still as active and prolific at 77 (outside of touring and recording he’s currently finishing up a book entitled The North and South of You), he’s also at a stage that invites retrospective releases and expanded works- a prospect which can result in an overindulgence, which thankfully, is avoided with City.
In the studio
A 2 LP set, with 2 discs of downloadable material- live recordings of the City group at New York’s Winter Garden atrium, and various out-takes and reworkings, all involved an extensive trawl through the Hassell vaults: “The search through the many hours of DATs recorded at my house in West Hollywood and various studios was a powerful experience – made more poignant by the passing of the amazing musician-guitarist (Greg Arreguin) a few years ago. And remember, this is my listening as if in an audience – a luxury I never have when I’m playing.” Such processes inevitably require more than one set of ears as Hasssell informs me: “Matthew [Jones at Warp/ All Saints] was a fantastic collaborator – in double-checking my tinted impressions – assessing how this or that would play to today’s ears” and “not to mention his knowledgeable curating of the contemporary reworks interleaved on disc 3.”
In the studio
The question of how City sounds to today’s ears is indeed a curious one when considering the concept associated with the record – the modern city, and its “imagined folkloric music”, sensory overloads and constant cultural flux. Given this theme in 1990 and the pre-internet age, I was curious about what struck him as incongruous to a present reality:
“The title came after the music – as pretty much always with me although I do have a notebook full of titles waiting for a music to fit. After enough years a title melds with the music and vice-versa. But that view seems quaintly sci-fi compared with the one or two billion more population since 1990, heated up on the griddle of corporate media saturation, and Guy Debord’s “Society of the Spectacle” pronouncements manifesting. My motto now is: Duck! Find yourself an oasis and get out!”
Debord and the Situationists have been a fairly constant reference point for Hassell’s work, which is always not far from a source of literary inspiration- and Debord’s concept of ‘psychogeography’- mapping through “zones of feeling”, rather than through geographical features- gives title and inspiration to the outtakes/reworkings chapter of the City package. Look no further than Mati Klarwein’s cover for Aka Dabari Java for a sublime realization of the “geographically promiscuous”.
The final part of the set – the recordings from the Winter Garden concerts – are also of particular note. With Brian Eno’s “Stockhausen-like graph” of rainforest field recordings playing during the day the City group then took over for the evening performance, and with all tracks carefully selected from the 3 nights by Jon. They show the original City to be far from reliant on studio magic, as the group traverses a then and now, composition/improvisation trajectory, with some divine ambience on ‘Nightsky’ and Arreguin’s guitar work shining through on ‘Alchemistry’ (think On the Corner- Miles Davis/ John McLaughlin). From the simulated exotica of the Winter gardens, to extraordinary pygmy field recordings by Louis Sarno, and the potent blend of sounds from the City group, the concert and indeed the recording take the audience from the forests of the Central African Republic, to an extraordinary musical zone within New York’s World Financial Center. Fourth World indeed.
City itself has left an indelible imprint on contemporary music and technique, and having long been due a revisit this re-release embellishes its legacy. It may be of it’s time, with the ensuing developments in sampling technology, but the mysterious brew of sounds within and interplay of the group, still pricks the ears up and weaves a distinct, outernational musical fabric. Time lag, zeitgeist shifts and “zones of feeling” included, it still sounds fitting to a Hassell adage he shared when considering fidelity and medium: “If the music is good it’ll play anywhere…”
We’ve added a new element to our features where our writers choose 5 records connected with the article as a further listening guide to help you broaden your collection even more. To start us off, James Hammond picks five records you’ll love if you’re into Jon Hassell’s City: Works of Fiction.
The Extraordinary Music of the Babenzele Pygmies
Hassel’s titular and sonic references to pygmy culture are smattered throughout City and this particular recording is masterful for the approach of Louis Sarno, who foregoes old standards of field recording – full focus on the subject – in favour of a rounded impression of the environmental sound of the forest, and the pygmy’s place within it.
On the Corner
It was Bitches Brew that offered Hassell a portal into new sonic realms, and this oft overlooked masterpiece that inspired his use of electronic effects with the trumpet.
Pandit Pran Nath
Raga’s of Morning and Night
Teacher of Hassell, La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Charlemagne Palestine, Don Cherry and one of the most important figures in reconciling and expanding Western and Eastern musical traditions. Hassell’s trumpet style can be heard through the lens of Pran Nath’s kiranic vocal style.
Hassel’s other notable teacher and a piece from 1968 that set an important precedent for the droning ways of La Monte Young and North American minimalism. A mesmerizing study in vocal overtones.
Aka Dabari Java
Essential listening as Hassell’s defining statement of Fourth World music. Innovative and highly influential sampling techniques, with the aforementioned artwork from Hassell’s friend and collaborator, Mati Klarwein.
May272014| May 27, 2014
The Vinyl Factory select the 10 most essential vinyl releases of the last 7 days.
We return from the bank holiday with a stash of leftfield goodies in tow. Fresh from soundtracking Rochard Mosse’s A/V show The Enclave, Ben Frost drops his anticipated LP as a limited edition vinyl, there’s space for Hype Williams muse Inga Copeland, self-releasing her solo non-shampoo affiliated Because I’m Worth It and Neil Young as a grizzled time-traveller, recording his latest LP inside a 1947 phonograph booth belonging to, who other than, Jack White.
Scroll down for our definitive across-the-board rundown of the week’s new vinyl releases as selected by The Vinyl Factory’s Chris Summers, Patrick Ryder, James Hammond and Theo Leanse. 5 singles and 5 LP’s every 7 days that are unmissable additions to any collection.
Born in Memphis, a city fulminating with blues and big bands, deeply influenced by Miles Davis while building a trumpet style from the Hindustani vocal techniques of Pran Nath, pioneering the techniques of sampling for electronic music, Jon Hassell deserves a lorra lorra respect. His catalogue is now being re-examined by All Saints, the label owned by Brian Eno, who himself owes a massive debt to Hassell’s “Fourth World Music”. The trumpeter was a prodigious collaborator – Terry Riley, Eno, Stockhausen – and saw shared authorship in his sampling and electronic methods too. So what’s more fitting than this remix 12” with efforts from Bandshell, patten and No UFO’s?
Apes In The Orange Grove
The Moscow duo cement their one-to-watch status with this sophomore 12″ on Chicago’s classy Glenview imprint. Giving the label’s usual disco a well timed swerve, Simple Symmetry meet the zeitgeist head on with this wide eyed Italo house bubbler. Cascading piano chords, rainforest flute, loon bird samples and a garage groove extracted from vintage drum machines combine perfectly for the most euphoric dancefloor moment of the year so far. Synth warrior Secret Circuit fires up his hardware army for an acid tinged remix on the flip, which is certain to feature at an ALFOS party near you in the not too distant future.
‘I Couldn’t Agree’
‘I Couldn’t Agree’ was initially released for Record Store Day, but it’s seemingly only just made its way out to several outlets, and should have some attention drawn to it as a bonkers slab of disco infused post punk, which is far removed from the avant-gardeisms Potter has become known for with Nurse With Wound. The title track conjures Coil’s ‘Windowpane’ through a Devo-esque pop filter – it’s quite the cross-breed. Keep an eye on Sacred Summits as well – they also reissued the impossible to find marvel ‘Ipan in Xiktli Metztli’ by Luis Perez, and promise much more of interest from Potter later this year.
‘Rumble’ (Actress Sixinium Bootleg Mix)
There’s not much to connect Actress’ remix to the bluesy original, with the tinny, imported brass has been replaced by an industrialised bass and restrained synth that teases but never consummates its threat to break into a full on belter. As it is, Actress provides the dramatic scenery for Kelis’ voice to take centre stage for a strikingly successful future soul collaboration that you’d have got long odds on a few years back.
4AD Session EP
This is simply stunning. Recorded at London’s world famous Air Studios with composer Joe Duddell, Daughter gather up a ten piece classical ensemble and in turn deliver five versions of some of the most jaw dropping music you will hear all year and beyond that. Limited to 800 copies on vinyl with a trusty download.
Because I’m Worth It
While Dean Blunt – Inga Copeland’s bandmate while the Hype Williams project still had legs – blends performance art with music, poetry and a piercing annoyingness, Inga’s surging on. And possibly, as the album credits would have you believe, surging on in Stroomi Rand, Estonia – though that could be a psyche. We can be pretty sure of Actress’ involvement as producer of the Hazyville-style track ‘Advice to Young Girls’ – an update of the sketchy beat that appeared on her soundcloud titled ‘Advice to Young Girls With Daddy Issues’. The rest of the album is either produced by Gast or Copeland, with aspects of reconstructed dancehall and Rephlex-style beats sitting under her spoken-word vocals.
The D.C. home of hardware house is red hot right now, following a string of sell out releases from the Swimmers, Huerco S and Hashman Deejay and they keep the fire burning with this debut LP from Protect-U. Expanding on the blurred and smudged dream house of their previous 12″s on the label, Aaron Leitko and Mike Petillo explore the full potential of their drum machines, packing each track with more rhythmic twists than your average braindance record, whilst somehow managing to keep things at a danceable 4/4. Over the ever changing bump and thump, the duo weave circular sequences, ambient pads and deep house motifs recalling Dream 2 Science or Boo Williams.
Following on from his soundtrack to The Enclave, Richard Mosse’s stunning work of altered perception, this is Ben Frost’s first full length LP in five years and shows the refinement of his production and compositional techniques over a busy period of cross-platform work and collaboration. As with his work on The Enclave, the listener’s ear is encouraged beneath the surface of the sound, and there’s a multi-faceted approach on much of Aurora to pushing waveforms to the point of obliteration, shaking them into dissociation, and in the process revealing the less discernible elements within. A captivating exposition of conflicting ideas and emotions, electro-acoustic production wizardry, and rhythmic complexities (courtesy of 3 choice drummers), this feels destined for wider audiences and end of year lists.
A Letter Home (Box Set)
(Third Man Records)
With all their concomitant guff and bluster, Third Man box sets tend to be impossible to ignore, not least when they feature the indefatigable Neil Young emerging from a 1940’s Phonograph recording booth like some addled Doctor Who from a replica Tardis down the local community centre. While that’s unfair, but the analogy is particularly fitting, given that A Letter Home is an exercise in existential and atemporal infirmity. Young’s tender and troubled cover versions waver through the fuzz of the post-war technology, and are tracked onto 6″ disc, seven of which are included in the box alongside the regulation 12″s, a CD, DVD and hardback book.
Speedy Wunderground – Year 1
Dan Carey’s Speedy Wunderground label is all about now! The idea is to get a band or artist in his studio and turn out a 7″s worth of music in the quickest time possible…. and the results are very impressive. Steve Mason, Archie Bronson, Childhood, Toy and Juce! for instance have all taken the dip and come out beaming on the other side. A fine compilation and the perfect execution of a brilliant idea.
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Registered in England and Wales under no. 04184222.