Fourth World vol. 2: Dream Theory In Malaya
Aka-Darbari-Java / Magic Realism
Melody Maker, May 11th 1991
by Simon Reynolds
typo alert -- gameplan = gamelan!
Single of the Week
Melody Maker, 1990
by Simon Reynolds
SINGLE OF THE WEEK
JON HASSELL/808 STATE
Jon Hassell is an avant-garde composer who keeps an eye, or rather an ear, out for instictively/unwittingly avant-garde pop forms like rap and house. (He's described his astonishing album "City: Works Of Fiction" as "classical rap"). 808 State are a techno-dance production team who flirt with the avant-garde.Someone had the bright idea of getting them together, and the result is this radical remix of "Voiceprint" off the "City" album.
Hassell's original method of composition reveals how much of an affinity his way of working has with the sampling aesthetic. Having got his musicians to play six wildly different mixes of the track, he chose his favourite sections, drew up a complicated map between the segments, and programmed it into a computer. The result: "a mosaic in which each of the tiles is a spontaneous event", and a brilliant balance between improvisation and composition, seduction and alienation. 808 State have taken the abstraction process one step further, by sampling from a vinyl version of "Voiceprint" rather than remixing the original tapes. It's a radical reconstruction rather than a track underwrittn by a standard-issue 1990 groove.
The result is a richly evocative exercise in unspecific exoticism: you think of dunes, mosques, mirages, bazaars with their hubbub of foreign tongues and heady assault of pungent, unfamiliar fragrances. Hassell's trumpet calligraphy darts in and out of 808's techno-vistas, synths shimmer like a heat-haze. "Voiceprint" presents the city of the future as a fractal labyrinth of uprooted cultures that co-exist but never mingle. Single of the week, because it's a work of imagination, and it works your imagination.
This week, that's rare.
.... Another inspirational collaborator Eno hooked up with in 1979 was Jon Hassell, whose post-Miles, raga-influenced music Eno had encountered when the trumpeter-composer performed at the Kitchen that summer. Hassell’s knowledge of many forms of exotic ethnic sounds and his concept of “Fourth World Music” (hi-tech modernity meets pre-industrial tribalism) would be massively influential on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Indeed, at its inception that album was conceived as a three-way collaboration. Byrne recalls “all hanging out together, talking and exchanging records”. At his Tribeca loft, Hassell played Eno and Byrne field recordings on ethnomusicological labels like Ocora. The idea emerged that “we would hole up and make a fake ethnographic records, with the sleeve notes and everything,” says Byrne. “We’d invent a whole culture to go with it.”
Both Hassell and Laraaji were present at the first sessions, in August 1979, for the album that became My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Also contributing to the dense mix of sound was David Van Tieghem, whom Eno had seen doing a gizmo-based piece called A Man and His Toys at New Music New York, and two bassists: Tim Wright from DNA and Bill Laswell, then playing in a band called Zu (later to mutate into Material). Of these early sessions, Eno would later wryly comment that “what was so weird was that at first I thought I'd wasted my money. I just couldn't understand it at all.” But gradually, sculpting down “ this barrage of instruments playing all the time”, an audio-concept emerged: a “jungle music” sound, embedded in a spacious widescreen production he’d never achieved before. Profiling Eno for Musician towards the end of 1979, Lester Bangs got advance glimpses of the work-in-progress: “It sounds like nothing we've ever heard from Brian Eno before; like nothing ever heard before, period. The influence of the move to New York is unmistakable: a polyglot freneticism, a sense of real itching rage and desperation... It gives intimations of a new kind of international multi-idiomatic music that would cross all commercial lines, uniting different cultures, the past and the future, European experimentalism and gutbucket funk.”
Work on Bush-to-be was sporadic and at a certain point Hassell dropped out of the equation – a turnabout that enraged him to the point of making public accusations of being ripped off. He and Eno would reconcile fairly swiftly, however, resulting in the collaboration Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics and the appearance, or rather apparition, of Hassell’s ghostly gaseous trumpet on the Remain In Light track “Houses In Motion”....