Jon Hassell: Seeing Through Sound: Pentimento Volume Two

Mark Sullivan By

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Jon Hassell: Seeing Through Sound: Pentimento Volume Two
Visionary trumpeter-composer Jon Hassell presents another gift from his late career. The third release on his own Ndeya label, it follows the re-release of his debut album Vernal Equinox (Ndeya, 2020) and is a sequel to Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One) (Ndeya, 2018). The structure is a bit different, still eight tracks, but organized as a series of Scenes. The personnel is more diverse as well. In addition to a core group of Rick Cox (electric guitar, bass clarinet, sample orchestration), John von Seggern (electric bass, synth, keyboard samples) and Peter Freeman (electric bass) who appear on most of the tracks, a number of other musicians contribute. And there is a detailed track listing.

So there is no guesswork about who is playing on each track. Which still does not even begin to clear up the "who is playing what" question. The opening Scene, "Fearless," illustrates this very well. Hassell plays trumpet (with electronics), which is clearly audible in all its reedy, vocal glory. There is a repeated guitar pattern—which could be either Cox or Eivind Aarset—a bit of identifiable Kheir-Eddine M'Kachiche violin, and a bass part from Von Seggern. But, beyond that there is a dense soundscape which includes percussion elements, and could be the contribution of any or all of the four players credited with samplers. It all contributes to a memorably atmospheric beginning.

In keeping with the pentimento theme (in visual art, the process of revealing previous images that had been painted over in a painting) it is probably fair to say that the star of the show is really Hassell's editing, as he layers and recombines recorded musical materials to create new soundscapes. "Moons Of Titan" focuses on the trumpet, while "Unknown Wish" makes it an equal partner in an abstract texture.

"Delicado" again features a sinuous trumpet line. After a couple of brief textural excursions with Hassell on keyboard, "Lunar" returns to a featured trumpet voice in a striking chordal role. The final Scene, "Timeless," finds the leader on keyboard and electronics, with substantial contributions from percussionist Adam Rudolph (on African drums and orchestration) and violinist Hugh Marsh (a major contributor to the previous volume). The longest track on the album, it makes a compelling conclusion: equal parts stasis and motion.

Track Listing

Fearless; Moons Of Titan; Unknown Wish: Delicado; Reykjavik; Cool Down Coda; Lunar; Timeless.


Jon Hassell: trumpet; Rick Cox: guitar, electric; John von Seggern: bass; Hugh Marsh: violin.

Peter Freeman: bass, electronics; Ralph Cumbers: kongo drum programming; Eivind Aarset: electric guitar, sampling; Kheir-Eddine M’Kachiche: violin, sampler; Christoph Harbonnier: bass; Michel Redolfi: electronics.

Album information

Title: Seeing Through Sound: Pentimento Volume Two | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Ndeya

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