Published Jun 05, 2018Over the last few years, Jon Hassell has re-released his two most celebrated and groundbreaking albums — 1980's Fourth World, Vol. 1 and 1981's Dream Theory in Malaya — bringing the oft-overlooked ambient music legend back into the spotlight.
With his first LP of new music in nine years, Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume One), the 81-year-old Tennessee composer shows listeners that he's still an important voice in modern minimalism. On eight tracks over 39 minutes of music, Hassell lays down his crystalline sonic vision, moving from the pulsating modal-like jazz opener "Dreaming" to the noise-filtered hum of "Picnic" and warped piano of "Her First Rain."
Hassell seems at his most inventive when he's mixing his media, as "Al Kongo Udu" and "Pastorale Vassant" move from polyrhythmic ambient jungle to disintegrating breakdowns, while "Manga Scene" blends shapeless beats with a smooth trumpet feel. Closing track "Ndeya", although tempered upon first listen, seems to encapsulate everything that makes Hassell's 14th LP such an engrossing listen, showcasing his wandering, inventive trumpet playing, mood-filled keyboards and penchant for absorbing sounds and rhythms.
On Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume One), it's a treat to find Jon Hassell still fascinated and engrossed in the style of music he helped create. (Ndeya)