Saturday, 25 April 2020

Jon Hassell ‎– Vernal Equinox (1977)

Style: Tribal, Experimental, Ambient
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: ArsNova, Lovely Music, Ltd., Beat Records, Ndeya

A1.   Toucan Ocean
A2.   Viva Shona
A3.   Hex
A4.   Blues Nile
B1.   Vernal Equinox
B2.   Caracas Night September 11, 1975

Claves, Bells – Miguel Frasconi
Kanjira, Rattle– Bill Winant
Congas, Shaker, Talking Drum, Bells – Nana Vasconcelos
Synthesizer , Electronics – Drone
Synthesizer – David Rosenboom, Andy Jerison
Talking Drum, Mbira – Nicholas Kilbourn
Special Rhodes Tuning – Larry Polansky
Trumpet, Electric Piano – Jon Hassell
Producer, Composed By – Jon Hassell

When Jon Hassell coined the term ”Fourth World” to describe his work, he fabricated a musical universe that new artists still call home. Melding the work of minimalists like La Monte Young and Terry Riley with non-Western folk, avant-garde classical and electronic, and early-’70s electric Miles Davis, the trumpeter and composer arrived more or less fully formed in 1977 with his solo debut Vernal Equinox. Originally released on Lovely Music, the label most famous for putting out the music of experimental composer-performer Robert Ashley, Vernal Equinox condensed everything Hassell had to offer the avant-garde of the late ‘70s in a petri dish. Despite his future decades of evolution, there is an uncanny narcotic power and elemental beauty to that first record, which is now being reissued on remastered vinyl and CD by Hassell’s Ndeya records imprint. 
Before releasing his album, Hassell studied for three years with the Indian vocalist Pandit Pran Nath. With his queasy and heavily manipulated trumpet figures, Hassell hoped to evoke the microtonal quality of Nath’s singing, but from the beginning, Hassell was careful to set his music apart from any discrete tradition. The record’s traditional folk instruments come from South Africa, South America, the Middle East, and elsewhere. The tambourine-like kanjira is the sole Indian instrument, turned to granular static by electronic processing (“Hex”). On opener “Toucan Ocean,” Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos introduces the primary rhythmic element on the album—the conga—in its first moments, keeping time with a lengthy, repeated rhythmic pattern and a simple shaker. Hassell’s ensemble introduces electric piano chords, grainy samples of ocean waves, and other effects to gradually build intensity. 
”Toucan Ocean” is the only song on the album to which you can reasonably nod your head. Hassell’s music often feels propulsive, but its rhythmic architecture is deceptively fluid and unstable. On most tracks, flurries of percussion—sometimes acoustic, sometimes blurs of digital noise—cluster together into little pockets of free time and chaos. Instead of providing the music’s rhythmic backbone, the album’s percussionists create ambient sounds that match the music’s scrambled synth motifs and samples in importance. Texture becomes its own organizational principle; a slew of disparate elements combine to form one gently vibrating mass.

Hassell’s trumpet is at the center of everything, as bent out of recognition as everything else. His elaborate effects chains create speech-like sounds, and his tone often becomes overwhelmed by the sound of his breath. On heavily processed tracks like “Hex” and “Viva Shona,” ping-ponging electronic dots and dashes nearly crowd him out of the mix. However, both “Blues Nile” and the album’s main event—the 21-minute long title track—distill Hassell’s artistry to its most fundamental elements: percussion, drone, and trumpet. He embellishes one or two notes insistently, creating tiny, detuned flutters that evoke a call to prayer for a non-existent religion. The simplicity and intimacy of these compositions is unusual in Hassell’s catalog. 
Hassell would dig into the more pop-friendly implications of his world-music-like experiments on his Earthquake Island album of the following year. His ensuing collaborations with Brian Eno (who contributes liner notes to this reissue), Peter Gabriel, and David Sylvian in the ‘80s would demonstrate how well Hassell’s style slotted in with other mini-movements in the electronic and art-rock music world. His discography of the ’90s and ’00s would evince restraint and control. But no other entry in Hassell’s catalog has Vernal Equinox’s sense of excitement and discovery, palpable with the introduction of each brilliant new sound.
Winston Cook-Wilson / Pitchfork

Mor Thiam ‎– Dini Safarrar (Drums Of Fire) (1973)

Style: African, Free Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl 
Label: Jazzman, Rite Record Productions

A1.   Ayo Ayo Nene (Blessing For The New Born Baby)
A2.   Sindiely (Song For The Black Beauty)
A3.   Kele Mubana (Overpain And Struggle To Black)
B1.   Kanfera (Return Of Fisher)
B2.   Africa (Dedication To All The People)

Alto Saxophone, Flute – Oliver Lake
Bass Guitar – Rayman Eldrige
Congas – Billy Ingram
Drums – Bobo - Charles Wesley Shaw Jr.
Guitar – Philip Wesdmoread
Piano – James Mathis
Trombone – John Evens
Trumpet – Lester Bowie
Vocals, Bass Drum – Zak Diouf
Vocals, Drums, Djembe, Written-By – Mor Thiam
Vocals, Maracas – Abdoulaye N'Gom
Producer, Recorded By – Oliver Sain

Here’s a sight to delight the serious record collectors in the audience. Originally a limited edition release in 1973, the Senegalese drummer’s superb album now receives a reissue and a welcome opportunity for re-evaluation thanks to the Jazzman dudes. Thiam moved to St Louis in the early 1970s and played with many jazz musicians in the city before recording Dini Safarrar (“drums of fire”) to raise money for famine relief in Africa. It’s his rolling grooves which have ensured this album stood the test of time and proved so enticing to several generations of beat-diggers. Ayo Ayo Nene is a magnificently deep, spiritual jazz odyssey with beautifully hazy brass colouring in the percussive pockets, while Kanfera is a ferocious, buckwild, thumping adventure into wide-eyed, feverish Afrofunk. Thiam released other albums and passed the musical torch to his rapper son Akon, but it’s Dini Safarrar which truly ensures his legacy.
Jim Carroll / The Irish Times

Brion Gysin ‎– Self-Portrait Jumping / MTM VOL. 33 (1993)

Style: Experimental, Minimal
Format: CD
Label: Made To Measure

01.   Kick
02.   Junk
03.   Stop Smoking
04.   Sham Pain
05.   V.V.V.
06.   Baboon
07.   All Those Years
08.   Dreamachine:
        - Page 3
        - Flies
        - I Am That I Am
        - Off The Ground
        - The Initiate
09.   Somebody Special
10.   The Door

Bass – Serge Salibur
Bass, Guitar– Yahn Leker
Drums, Percussion – Frédéric Cousseau
Goblet Drum – Michel Peteau
Guitars, Piano, Percussion, Backing Vocals – Ramuntcho Matta
Programmed By, Guitars, Mixed By – Ramuntcho Matta
Vocals, Words By – Brion Gysin
Music By, Producer – Ramuntcho Matta

Burnt Friedman ‎– Masque / Peluche (2016)

Style: Downtempo, Abstract, Techno
Format: MP3
Label: Risque

1.   Masque
2.   Peluche

Mastered By – Rashad
Composed By – Burnt Friedmann
Producer – Burnt Friedmann

When Will Lynch spoke to Burnt Friedman a couple of years ago, he noted the "mild-mannered" way that the artist delivered his "fairly radical" views. He could just as easily have been referring to Friedman's music, which—as with other German vanguardists like Moritz Von Oswald, Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer—uses subtlety and audiophile precision as a vessel for deeply strange ideas. Friedman's latest 12-inch swaps the richer textures of recent collaborations with Daniel Dodd-Ellis for a yet more restrained sound. Its two tracks are so delicate that listening to them can feel like squinting at a light sculpture under the glare of a full sun. The more you concentrate, the more of its delicate filigree you see. 
Each track is built around a single beat-loop, embellished with very light dub processing. "Masque" is the more understated of the two, its hi-hats ultra-crisp and lilting, its kick drum sounding sharply at the start of the bar. Scraps of chord and melody are fleetingly visible in the background, like wisps of cloud against a clear sky. "Peluche" is a bolder take on a similar idea. A 5/4 time signature enhances the feeling of balanced asymmetry, and the beat is pitted with all kinds of live-sounding percussion hits. Every couple of minutes, puffs of reverb coalesce into a dense fog, and in the second half the whole thing picks up a loping, implacable pace. It's a strange groove, but in Friedman's hands it feels like the most natural thing in the world.
Angus Finlayson / RA Reviews