CD Shorts: Jon Hassell

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

City: Works of Fiction

(All Saints)

More than a simple reissue, this three-disc expansion of trumpeter Jon Hassell’s City: Works of Fiction serves as a recontexualization of his otherworldly music. Hassell is best known for his Fourth World concept, which combines global influences and modern technology. 1990’s City transitions from his sublimely ethereal early work into an aggressive polyglot music with hip-hop-inspired rhythms. Many songs are underpinned by distorted beats, showcasing Hassell’s smeared and processed trumpet snaking through roiling soundscapes. The slapped funk bass occasionally sounds dated, but most of these tracks retain their hallucinatory eclecticism.

The set’s other two discs prove equally vital. “The Living City” captures Hassell’s band playing live inside an audio installation created by Brian Eno. It’s a disorienting, gorgeous, and quietly intense performance that allows the group to stretch out and improvise. “Psychogeography” offers 18 tracks of fascinating outtakes, rehearsal sketches, and remixes, ranging from lush ballads to stuttering cut-up collages.

Smartly designed and packaged, the set includes evocative texts by Simon Reynolds, Glenn O’Brien, Eno and Hassell himself that illuminate his future-primitive approach. As Hassell writes of his inspiration: “Spirit, not only in the forest but in the carwash, too.”

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