Jon Hassell ‘Dream Theory In Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two’ LP+CD/CD (Glitterbeat) 4/5

This remastered re-issue from 1981 follows on from the first volume, still available on Glitterbeat, and collectively these albums that have inspired other trumpeters such as Scandinavians Arve Henriksen and Niels-Petter Molvaer to explore improvised music with sound effects. Trumpeter, Hassell, grew up in Memphis and went on to study composition and incorporating electronics into music with no less than Stockhausen in Cologne. If that were not enough, he then moved to New York and while there studied under Terry Riley, Lamonte Young and Phillip Glass as well as being mentored by Indian vocal master Pandit Pran Nath. Among collaborations, Hassell can count David Byrne and Talking Heads, Ry Cooder and Peter Gabriel as co-musicians, an impressive list to say the least. The album is part of a wider series that explore the relationship between non-Western modalities and sound processing, and are as experimental sounding now as they were when they first surfaced. Indeed, Jon Hassell is credited as the musician who coined the term, ‘Fourth world’, to define trans-cultural music.

This album finds him collaborating with Brian Eno who was living in New York at the time. Typical of the music as a whole is the eerie textured sound of the title track where the trumpet repeats a riff ad infinitum while in the background the listener hears multiple other sounds. Javanese world beat flavours meet Pygmy music in places, with a strong Polynesian feel to ‘Dato Ointung at Jelong’, which is notable for showcasing a cacophony of South Asian sound effects, and this hints in part at a ship’s horn lost in fog with muted harmon trumpet playing this role. Elsewhere frogs, children singing and laughter are all incorporated. Ambient and exotic in equal measure.

Jon Hassell liked to refer to his concept as ‘Coffee-coloured music of the future’, and this is most certainly other worldly and futuristic even by today’s standards. Inner sleeve notes by the leader shed light on the creative process.

Tim Stenhouse