John Hassell

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
Interview with VI here
cool interview. didn't realize he was the dude that put out Rex Ilusivii AND that crazy Ihor Tsymbrovsky record. doing the Lord's work, truly.

his parents sound impossibly cool, bringing home all Factory Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire etc

it seems like a much-mythologized time in, I guess, Balkan youth culture, especially in Belgrade and Sarajevo (and maybe other cities? idk)

a cultural flowering, golden age, before the cataclysm of separation and the wars, ethnic cleansing, etc. a lost world, as he says an Atlantis.

not unlike the pre-WWI European avant-garde art scene, innocence and cultural flowering before the fall

lotta cool records, anyway. close enough to Western European forms to be recognizable but with much regional character.

you get that in 80s hardcore punk - countries (Finland, Italy, etc) with a very distinctive sound - but not as much in the less regimented postpunk world

I'd definitely like to hear more of the Rex Ilusivii archives, guy was a damned production weirdo genius

@WashYourHands you or anyone is welcome to make a playlist, I probably ain't gonna do it
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
it don't seem like there's much interest in discussing the original topic, which is nbd

but it feels like 4th World is a seriously dated conceptual framework, certainly pre-Internet

there are no more separate worlds in a cultural sense, it's all just one mashup of varying gradation

or separate times, since 4th World was also supposed to be a mashup of future and ancient past into the cutting edge now (or something, it's vague)
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
btw, the actual "dream theory" of Malaya is itself, perhaps unsurprisingly, pretty much bullshit

the guy who originally wrote about it more or less made it up. not full on Carlos Castaneda fraud, but large amounts of romanticized embellishing.

then was seized on by parts of New Age culture (human potential movement etc) and wound up as a kind of dream therapy cottage industry

idk as it matters much, but it's kind of an apt metaphor for the pitfalls of befuddled exoticism in general

or seizing on the exotic in ignorance, perhaps, ignorance being the real problem
 

Leo

Well-known member
I wonder if some of the dreaded conceptronica is actually the current (albeit, hipster) interpretation of the 4th world concept, with stuff like the NON Worldwide label (chino amobi, farai), Fatima al-qadiri, etc. not as old-school "exotic" sounding, but seems like it's heavily skewed toward ethnicity.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
cool interview. didn't realize he was the dude that put out Rex Ilusivii AND that crazy Ihor Tsymbrovsky record. doing the Lord's work, truly.

his parents sound impossibly cool, bringing home all Factory Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire etc

it seems like a much-mythologized time in, I guess, Balkan youth culture, especially in Belgrade and Sarajevo (and maybe other cities? idk)

a cultural flowering, golden age, before the cataclysm of separation and the wars, ethnic cleansing, etc. a lost world, as he says an Atlantis.

not unlike the pre-WWI European avant-garde art scene, innocence and cultural flowering before the fall

lotta cool records, anyway. close enough to Western European forms to be recognizable but with much regional character.

you get that in 80s hardcore punk - countries (Finland, Italy, etc) with a very distinctive sound - but not as much in the less regimented postpunk world

I'd definitely like to hear more of the Rex Ilusivii archives, guy was a damned production weirdo genius

@WashYourHands you or anyone is welcome to make a playlist, I probably ain't gonna do it
He's a really interesting guy I think. Disclaimer - I know him a bit and I like him so I may be biased.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
I wonder if some of the dreaded conceptronica is actually the current (albeit, hipster) interpretation of the 4th world concept
that's not a bad look - a similar academic way of conceptualizing something that's a de facto reality across the breadth of current cultural production

not all literally academics, but a lot of post-grads self-consciously marking out intellectual space in mostly high-culture settings

large, important difference in that the labeling is being done by an outside critic rather than a participant

and on a related a note, it's a tag producers flee from/complain about, rather than embrace

it does speak something to the way attitudes toward and conceptualization of influence and appropriation have shifted in the last few decades
 
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padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
the true obsolescence of 4th World is that its required imagination is no longer required

you no longer have to conceive of that imagined world, you just open a bunch of browser tabs and bang, there it is

not that the entire world has solid Internet access, ofc, but anyone producing high concept electronic music certainly does

anyone with the right plugins and sufficient craft can make a more or less accurate recreation of a particular thing

4th World is classic postmodernism, conceptronica is post-postmodern (metamodern? I'm unclear what that actually means, if really anything)

another successor is maybe the spate of less high-concept genreless anything goes danceish producers records the last few years, often super hyped

DJ Sotofett, Wolf Müller/Young Marco,The Pilotwings, Mekine U Teksi, etc

I haven't actually listened to a ton but what I have heard usually leaves me cold (tho not as cold as the dreaded conceptronica) despite the hype

the old there's no there there problem. tho perhaps I just haven't heard the right things yet.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
maybe (probably) the time when music production can create those imagined worlds in that sense has simply passed, or is passing

it happened with literature, it's happening with cinema as it ever more rapidly becomes just another subheading of streaming content

and we should rather be looking newer or emerging art forms, games and VR or some combination thereof, for the 4th worlds of tomorrow

or transhumanism or something, idk

makes you nostalgic for a time when high concept art chancer could pass off analogue electronics and marimbas as the boundless future/past of now
 

Leo

Well-known member
early exotica -- Martin Denny, say -- seemed harmless: even though they blatantly stole from other cultures, it was usually in the services of kitschy "isn't this cool?" entertainment. 4th world seems to have a class element, there's a hierarchy in play with maybe a small side order of good old fashioned colonialism, i.e., indigenous artists don't know any better, they just do their thing, oblivious to the outside world. it takes the more cultured western white man (and it's pretty much always a male) to survey the globe, curate the worthy bits of exotic culture and use their superior intellect and talent to transform them into something transcendent.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
or rather, the factors of race and colonialism are just more sublimated in earlier exotica

partially by that very harmlessness - low stakes - and partially by the times - the post-WWII global order had yet to be called into question in the West

certainly the academic tenor of 4th World looks bad 40 years on, the white arbiter of high culture legitimizing art from outside global power centers

in the same way that plenty of early (and some not so early) anthropology looks bad retrospectively

tho I think that's a bit of an unfair reading of what Hassell actually did

he wasn't saying I'm legitimizing this, rather imagine a possible world in which there is no need to legitimize things that exist on their own terms

it's clumsy from our vantage point in 2020, but you judge him by the standards of the day he comes off pretty well I think

kind of an Anthony Bourdain type thing, trying to engage with cultures on their own terms, strike that balance between unhelpful guilt and reverence
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
my issue is more undeserved credit and the lack of focus on the many other people - including African, Caribbean, etc musicians - doing similar things

not really his fault, I think, tho idk how much of an Eno/Byrne kind of self-promoter he was or wasn't

another problem is that neither of the actual 4th World records are very good

especially compared to people like Don Cherry, Alice Coltrane, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, etc or the krautrock types mentioned upthread

who had all been making much better de facto 4th World music for years, and not labored down by self-consciousness
 

eleventhvolume

Active member
I'm posting for the first time here after reading via a feed for a while. Quite intimidating, but this is a subject close to my heart. I've been listening to Hassell for over 35 years, started age 18 with Fourth World Vol.1 after exploring Eno's music and went on from there. Seen him live I think twice and have everything including a fair number of bootlegs.

Criticism of the fourth world concept is entirely valid and I agree with some of what Padraig and others say. For me though, his music just fucking sends me. The sounds he achieves, well, there's little like it. A lot of thinking goes into each album. He's released a few duff records, but most of them are varied and exploratory - whether it's the untreated near-jazz of Fascinoma (with Jacky Terrasson and Ry Cooder), the hip-hop impacted, Ellington quoting, swinger-scene lyricism of Dressing for Pleasure or the sublime Vernal Equinox.

However, it's his voice as an instrumentalist that I think is so rare now. He's an improvisor who doesn't do jazz. He studied with Stockhausen and Pandit Pran Nath and played with LaMonte Young and he developed a really original sound that blended non-western techniques with then newish technologies (harmoniser, synthesisers, etc.). And of course he worshipped Miles Davis. I think Hassell heard certain things in Miles' 70s music and ran with them, in particular Rated X on the 1972 Miles Davis in Concert (mis-named - it's actually Chieftain finally released on The Complete On The Corner Sessions box) and the whole On The Corner record. You can hear it most clearly on Hassell's City: Works of Fiction.

Post '60s, Miles was very clear in hating the term jazz because it boxed him in, limited his audiences. He was just making great music right up 'til his death (don't get me started on his '80s work, easily the equal of his previous decades). Hassell is sui generis and I'm kind of sad he felt he had to name his own genre. He's one of the few artists still challenging himself at such a late age, he's 83 now and infirm (if you're a fellow fan, please do contribute to his fund for medical expenses, https://www.gofundme.com/f/jon-hassell-fund). Scott Walker was another. Christ, I've written a mini-essay, sorry.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
his music just fucking sends me
when it comes down to it that's the only criteria that matters, and if that's the case for you, great

I just don't think his records are good or interesting. admittedly I haven't listened to it all but I'm familiar with all of what you'd call his seminal work.

I could expand on that but the particulars aren't important

I do think his NYC contemporaries made better, more interesting music combining avant-garde classical and non-Western influences

and that various krautrock and other 70s avant-rock types were combining new technologies with non-Western influences earlier and better

and so on, as noted above

I did know about his frankly amazing background. in addition to all you mentioned, he also (as you probably know) played on the original In C.

nothing but respect for the man's place in history

as far as the 4th World, if anything I think I've mostly defended it from being unfairly judged in retrospect

it's well-intentioned, and it pointed the way to the future infinitely better than "world music". some ca. 1980 clumsiness can be forgiven.

it's good for dissensus to have people with strong opinions, so I appreciate you taking the time to stick up for your guy even if I disagree

idk if that was your first post but if it was it's a great one
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
fwiw I'm also a massive non-fan of Eno post-Taking Tiger Mountain - very strong case for the most overrated musical figure of the last 50 years

and before I forget, "street hassell" is the first time I've ever actually enjoyed a thread tag, kudos to whoever came up with it
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Street Hassell!
Synchronicity of sorts somehow cos girlfriend just put TTMBS on the turntable in the other room two minutes ago. I mean I guess it's not that incredible a coincidence given the parameters but the words jumped out at me all the same.
 

DannyL

Wild Horses
I had an "actually I think Hassell is good" post part written but it's been superseded now. Thanks to eleventhvolume. Seeing as it wasn't much more than that statement, best in the bin.

To get onto the particulars of his music I think he's doing something different that Cherry/Terry Riley/Alice Coltrane/the krautrockers - heading more towards an ambient space and breaking out of rock and jazz limitations, but maintaining that trance quality that shows his work with Pandit Pran Nath (which Riley also does, the trance quality if not the ambience).

This one is pretty lit but the videos are blocked, soz: https://jonhassell.com/sulla-strada/
 
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