As time goes on I’ve come to appreciate the music of (the recently deceased) Jon Hassell more and more. The first albums of his I bought over 30 years ago, and they are still entirely listenable, still sounding fresh, still ahead of the curve. His more recent albums continued to push forward into new territory: the sound is different—he completely embraced the transition from analogue to digital—but the musical texture changed, become more coherent. It’s not just a soloist over a rhythm section, it’s all one thing, one all-inclusive sound.
He is a quite unique mixture of a musician who was classically trained but sort of overthrew everything he’s been taught as he explored the musics of Africa, India, and Indonesia. Out of this came someone with a completely unique and unmistakeable musical voice, and who moreover remained absolutely true to his own vision.
I would recommend any of his post-1980 albums without reservation: they all have something to offer. But here’s a couple of concerts:
I have no real idea as to the provenance of this quote, it’s just something I found on Facebook. Let’s just take it at face value and marvel at its wisdom:
At 19, I read a sentence that re-terraformed my head: “The level of matter in the universe has been constant since the Big Bang.” In all the aeons we have lost nothing, we have gained nothing – not a speck, not a grain, not a breath. The universe is simply a sealed, twisting kaleidoscope that has reordered itself a trillion trillion trillion times over. Each baby, then, is a unique collision – a cocktail, a remix – of all that has come before: made from the molecules of Napoleon and stardust and comets and whale tooth; colloidal mercury and Cleopatra’s breath: and with the same darkness that is between the stars between, and inside, our own atoms. When you know this, you suddenly see the crowded top deck of the bus, in the rain, as a miracle: this collection of people is by way of a starburst constellation. Families are bright, irregular-shaped nebulae. Finding a person you love is like galaxies colliding. We are all peculiar, unrepeatable, perambulating micro-universes – we have never been before and we will never be again. Oh God, the sheer exuberant, unlikely face of our existences. The honour of being alive. They will never be able to make you again. Don’t you dare waste a second of it thinking something better will happen when it ends. Don’t you dare.
Art, higher learning, politics, economics—none of these activities today is properly related to human needs: all are fragmented. Like science, art has become remote from living: not, as in primitive societies, an integral part of our culture, existing in all aspects of life, in everyday matters, in religion. Art has become separate and specialised, understood only by a minority, segregated in galleries, museums, and concert halls, and, like science, exploited for political and commercial ends.
With new computer software and techniques of sampling and synthesis found in traditions from art music to hip hop, it is now possible for people with access to technology to create their own music, without training in performance. In some respects, we are surrounded by more music than we can ever consume. But perhaps we are also returning to something akin to the practice of music long ago, when every singer sang their own song.
— The final paragraph in The History of Western Music
This came up on my YouTube feed recently. From 1995. I hadn’t listened to it for a long, long, time. 😂 It’s actually pretty decent, I’m relieved to say. And although it’s not how I would do things today*, the underlying driving force is still exactly the same: it’s all about rhythm and texture.
* PS: Believe me, I am infinitely grateful that I am still producing music today.
With the album mostly done now, our most recent release on Bamboo Radical (March 1 2023 to be exact). This one has got a decent amount of airplay, I’m pleased to report, and a couple of really good reviews.
Not entirely happy with the video, if I’m honest. What comes from not planning properly and leaving it all to the last moment.
So, with the album now under way we decided to release this as the first track off it (now safely on Bamboo Radical). Didn’t get much airplay TBH. What comes from releasing eleven-and-a-half minute singles…😂
I absolutely adore this track. Great vocal. You just need to sit there and let it pick you up and wring you out: