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Jon Hassell: Dream Theory In Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two

Chris May By

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Three decades and more after the last vinyl reissue of trumpeter Jon Hassell's landmark album, back in 1987, Britain's Glitterbeat label has released a remastered edition of the LP, which is also available on CD. The new edition includes a previously unreleased three-minute bonus track from the recording sessions.

Dream Theory In Malaya, first released in 1981, arguably ranks as the most perfect realisation ever of fourth-world music, the acoustic-electronic blend of minimalism, jazz, drone, ambient and traditional African and Asian instruments and harmolodic signatures which Hassell unveiled on his debut album, Vernal Equinox, in 1978. The style was born out of an encounter Hassell had six years earlier with the Indian singer Pandit Pran Nath, while on a European tour with drone/minimalist pioneer LaMonte Young. Nath's microtonal style made a profound impression on Hassell, who immediately began developing his uniquely transcultural approach to the trumpet—raga-like, microtone-inflected, half sung and half blown, breathy and allusive.

The description "fourth world" was born in 1980, as part of the title of Hassell's first collaboration with Brian Eno, Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics. Hassell and Eno were a studio partnership made in heaven and Possible Musics is a work of flawless beauty. The atmosphere owes something to the studio techniques previously employed on Eno's Ambient 1 (Music For Airports), but more to the transculturalism of Vernal Equinox. Even the best partnerships, however, can run into difficulties...

Possible Musics was a succès d'estime for which most of the acclaim accrued to Eno rather than its lesser-known primary creator. As Eno embarked on high-profile fourth world-inspired collaborations with other musicians, beginning with David Byrne's My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, Hassell felt that a wholesale appropriation of his ideas was going on. He has said he reached tipping point when he came across Possible Musics racked under Eno's name in a New York record store. So while Eno contributed to Dream Theory In Malaya, as mixer and musician, his name does not appear on the front cover and the sleeve credits unambiguously state, "All compositions by Jon Hassell. Produced by Jon Hassell."

Fortunately, Hassell's annoyance with the way Eno had been cast as the inventor of fourth-world music did not extend to Eno personally—or if it did, was shortlived. The partnership resumed with the beautiful Power Spot, which ECM released in 1986, and which Eno co-produced with Daniel Lanois.

Track Listing: Chor Moire; Courage; Dream Theory; Datu Bintung At Jelong; Malay; These Times; Gift Of Fire; Ordinary Mind (Bonus Track).

Personnel: Jon Hassell: trumpet, pottery drums (tracks 5, 7), Prophet 5 (track 4), bowl gongs (tracks 2, 7); Brian Eno: drums (tracks 2, 3), bowl gongs (tracks 5, 6), bells (tracks 5, 6); Michael Brook: bass (tracks 2, 3); Miguel Frasconi: bowl gongs (track 5); Walter DeMaria: distant drum (track 2).

Title: Dream Theory In Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Glitterbeat

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