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MP3 Discussion Group: Jon Hassell’s ‘Last Night The Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street’

For the next few days, three ardent listeners will join me in discussing the new album by ambient-music figure Jon Hassell, Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street, released on the ECM Records label. Most if not all of the individual tracks being discussed are streaming at last.fm. For additional information, visit the websites ecm.com and jonhassell.com. Back in 1980, Hassell collaborated with Brian Eno on the album Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics. That term, “Fourth World,” has come to be Hassell’s description of an imagined futuristic music that brings together “ancient and digital, composed and improvised, Eastern and Western.”

Introducing the Last Night the Moon discussion participants:

  • Colin Buttimer publishes hardformat.org, a website dedicated to the sublime in music design. His background is in fine art, and he’s now a photographer and webbie. He writes reviews for BBC online and used to do same for Signal to Noise, e/i, Jazzwise, The Wire, Absorb, and Milkfactory. His online life is at eleventhvolume.com.
  • Richard Kadrey is a writer and digital artist living in San Francisco. He has written extensively on technology and culture for publications such as Wired, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Discovery Online. His new novel, Sandman Slim, will be published in July 2009 by Eos.
  • Michael Ross uses a career as a music journalist to support his other career as a musician and producer. As the former he writes for Guitar Player, EQ, Sound On Sound, and puremusic.com, among others. As the latter, when not playing funk, country, and blues, he composes and performs guitar/laptop electronica under the monicker prehab.

The conversation will play out in the comments section below. This is not a closed discussion, so do feel free to join in.

Some additional details about the album, before we proceed. The lineup is: Jon Hassell (trumpet, keyboards), Peter Freeman (bass, laptop), Jan Bang (live sampling), Jamie Muhoberac (keyboard, laptop), Rick Cox (guitar, loops), Kheir Eddine M’Kachiche (violin), Eivind Aarset (guitar), Helge Norbakken (drums), Pete Lockett (drums), and Dino J.A. Deane (live sampling). Track-specific personnel are listed at the Last Night the Moon album’s discogs.com entry.

The track listing is:

    1. Aurora 2. Time And Place 3. Abu Gil 4. Last Night The Moon Came 5. Clairvoyance 6. Courtrais 7. Scintilla 8. Northline 9. Blue Period 10. Light On Water

The album was produced by ECM Records founder Manfred Eicher, and co-produced by Hassell and Freeman. Cover photo by Gérald Minkoff. Cover design by Sascha Kleis. The album title comes from a poem by 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi. Last Night the Moon was released February 3, 2009, in the United States, and March 6 in the European Union.

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tags: , , / Comments: 22 ]

22 Comments

  1. [ Posted May 25, 2009, at 7:46 am ]

    I am curious where this track listing originated as it the first track’s title bears no resemblance to the “Aurora” of my CD version and neither does the extra track “From One Place to Another” appear anywhere on said CD. Am I missing something or is it another case of the internet “mis-information highway”? That said…

    When listening to Jon Hassell’s Last Night The Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes In The Street, the word that came to my mind was “dislocation”; a word that increasingly sums up the world in which we live. You receive a cell phone call, email, text or tweet from someone you know (or someone you don’t), and you haven’t the faintest idea where they are. You dial an 800 number to speak to a tech help line, and the person on the other end could be an Indian in India, an Indian in Brooklyn, or Texan in Virginia for that matter. You listen to a music download or—what is that shiny disc thing again?—oh yeah, a CD, and the music may be pieced together from parts contributed by musicians who have never met, on opposite sides of a massive ocean.

    This final scenario describes both the tunes of the previous Disquiet MP3 Discussion Group, Burial/Four Tet’s “Moth”/”Wolf Cub,” and the aforementioned Hassell disc, which I find to be a collection of dislocation anthems. Tracks don’t begin and end as much as rise up out of the soup of an international noise floor. Like the films of Olivier Assayas they conjure a place that is at once everywhere and nowhere. Unlike the Assayas films, Hassell’s music depicts a place I might enjoy inhabiting. Not that I don’t like the films (Demon Lover, Boarding Gate)—I do—I just wouldn’t want to live in his world of ice-cold international double-dealing. In fact, I do live in it—we all do, but I choose not to dwell on that. I would rather focus on Hassell’s more appealing world; one that finds beauty in the dislocation, and revels in the sensuality of exotic cultures and ambiguous electronic textures.

    At first I missed the overt drum and percussion grooves of Hassell’s earlier works, up through his last record Maarifa Street, but I came to see Last Night The Moon… as a refinement of rhythm, where everyone is responsible for the pulse, not just the drummer or drum programmer. The pushing of the overt rhythmic elements to the background allows texture to take prominence, and helps to distinguish the trumpeter’s sound from that of his primary musical offspring Nils Petter Molvær. Given that Molvær cohorts Jan Bang, and to a lesser extent, Eivind Aarset, are featured on the record, it is a tribute to the power of Hassell’s musical vision that Last Night The Moon… sounds like no one else.

  2. [ Posted May 25, 2009, at 8:15 am ]

    Fascinating error on my end, due to (1) my recidivism and (2) the general cloudiness of such issues. I’ve corrected above. Chalk it up to, as you put it so well, the Mis-information Highway.

    A similar issue occurred in the previous week’s “MP3 Discussion Group,” when conflicting information led to me misidentifying the titles — something one participant said was not uncommon, that among the various mysteries surrounding that release, Burial/Four Tet’s “Moth”/”Wolf Cub,” was track-titling. (For comprehensiveness’s sake, here’s the track order I had mistakenly posted: “Isortoq Unartoq,” “Time and Place,” “Abu Gil,” “From One Place to Another,” “Last Night the Moon Came,” “Clairvoyance,” “Courtrai,” “Scintilla,” “Northline,” “Blue Period,” “Light on Water.”)

    Retracing my error here, I think it originated with confusion on my end when I received the record in the first place. If I’m not mistaken, I got it through the record through the file-download option provided by the record label, and the tracks came through sounding good, but absent information in the track-number fields. As a result, I’ve been listening to the record mostly in alphabetical order.

    Anyhow, on with the music…

  3. [ Posted May 25, 2009, at 8:28 am ]

    Damn – I was hoping there were some extra tracks somewhere.

  4. [ Posted May 25, 2009, at 10:35 am ]

    First up, a couple of links: My BBC Online review of this disk can be found here and you can listen to the whole album using Spotify, here’s the album link. Spotify also streams three of his other albums: Earthquake Island, Power Spot, Surgeon Of the Nightsky).

    Thanks for a really interesting first post Michael, I’d like to respond to a few of your points:

    Exotic locations – I don’t think this is how Jon Hassell approaches the musics with which he establishes dialogues. I believe he sees western musics as just as exotic as non-western ones (his 1994 album Dressing For Pleasure being a case in point). That view is founded at least in part on a) the so-called ‘developed nations’ as being unbalanced and out of touch with key wisdoms, and b) his love of the real (sic) exotica of Martin Denny et al. As a result, I think it’s a mistake to approach his music in such terms. There’s a line by Kip Hanrahan that goes something like ‘exotica, what the hell is it?’ – wish I could remember it down properly.

    One of the things I most admire about Hassell’s approach is the confidence with which he seeks to articulate fractures and dissonances and in the process create new forms from them.

    Dislocation anthems – I think Hassell benefits from being listened to in the context of ’70s Miles Davis, LaMonte Young and Pandit Pran Nath. His and their works may be viewed as sections cut from an ongoing, greater whole. That’s very much the modus operandi of Last Night The Moon…, most of these pieces are edited sections and as such may give rise to a sense of being heard out of context. My experience of the album is that it’s remarkably consistent and coherent despite the fairly wide cast of musicians who recorded it at different times. Methodology-wise, I’d say it’s more in tune with Arve Henriksen’s latterday approach, particularly as expressed on his latest, Cartography (also on ECM), though Hassell was doing serious post-production long before Henriksen began recording. On a side note, I’m interested to hear Nils Molvaer’s new one, but his recordings have very much been a case of diminishing returns since Khmer.

    I love Michael’s observation of everyone being responsible for the rhythm, that gives me another way to listen to the album, thank you.

    Brian Eno has observed that he and Hassell differ crucially in their musical approach – Hassell’s approach originates in instrumental facility and as such I wonder whether he may represent an approach that’s quickly become occluded by digital technologies. I wonder whether anyone wants to challenge me on that notion?

  5. [ Posted May 25, 2009, at 12:04 pm ]

    I wasn’t sure whether to wait for others to weigh in or not, but just to clarify: I didn’t say exotic locations, I said exotic cultures. And it is true that Hassell sees certain western music as exotic. It is his feeling about this exotica that speaks to me, and also to what I believe is the difference between him and Eno. I don’t think it is the instrumental facility as much as the fact that Hassell’s music is more concerned with matters below the waist. Not in the sense of dance music—in an interview I did with him recently, he spoke of resisting the easy “groove,” but in his comfort with sensuality, and what the hell, let’s say it—sex. Eno’s music, though it is not without sensual texture, always seemed to arise more from “the concept.”

    I don’t see Hassell’s music as being dislocated in the sense of disjointed. The miracle of it is that, from a palette of such wide-ranging sources, he creates such a unified whole. I see him (and he sees himself) as a sonic painter. Unlike many sample based artists though, rather than grabbing sounds from other records of others, he is drawing colors from sources that he and his cohorts have created through live and recorded performances, samples of those performances, and edits and processing of samples of those performances, etc.

    I like the new Arve Henriksen, but it strikes me as less cohesive a work and just goes to show once again that using the same people (Bang, Aarset) does not produce the same result. Though I love all of Nils Petter’s stuff, I agree that Khmer is a hard act to follow.

    I was trying to say that for me, Hassell’s music shows us a way to navigate through a dislocated world, as well as a way to reconnect in a manner that unifies the head, heart and hips.

  6. [ Posted May 25, 2009, at 2:29 pm ]

    Michael and Colin, thanks for the initial posts. And Michael, no need to wait for anyone before following up, certainly. It’s an open thread, and will remain so even after we call an end to this “official” part of the discussion on Wednesday or Thursday of this week. (In the previous “MP3 Discussion Group,” about Burial and Four Tet’s recent collaboration, some readers joined in with substantial observations, Colin having been among them.)

    First up, I agree with Colin: Michael’s idea about the communal rhythm does provide a useful lens on the album. That group give’n’take helps make the whole thing such a rich contuation of the early electric experiments of Miles Davis, to which the record makes several prominent allusions — and not just because Hassell plays trumpet. Even though the album is placid, it has an inner tension, a pull, a sense of inner tumultuousness if not turmoil, that can be attributed, at least in part, to the absence of a singular beat, or pulse, and to the fact that each piece goes where the collective band takes it.

    I suspect this is a distinction resulting from what Colin refers to as “instrumental facility.” I’m fairly hopeful (more to the point, expectant) that digital technologies won’t bring an end to that sort of music-making, in part because I suspect “live” instrumentation won’t soon go away, and in part because true ability-leaders (edge workers) in laptop-based (and -related) tools will, in time, develop skills that likewise evidence virtuousity.

    Anyhow, back to the album. Most succinctly, what I loved about the Last Night the Moon was how utterly thorough it is. I hear you both on how the post-Khmer Molvær hasn’t reached those heights, and I ventured into Last Night with related trepedation: can early progenitors of electronically enabled, cross-cultural music keep up now that reality — a world that is so utterly mediated by technology, and in which border crossing is a matter of daily fact not clairvoyant fancy — has molded itself to their vision? I’ve always heard Hassell’s music as aural science fiction, imaginging new worlds — his proposed Fourth World — and this record makes good on that ability of his, to conjure not just place, but a place we’ve never before been, but that seems entirely realized. (I’m momentarily thinking of cinematic equivalents: Code 46, Sleep Dealer, maybe Children of Men.)

    As I listened, the forest gave way to the trees, to the little fissure-like moments, a fairly sizable array of grace notes, that decorate the album, little computer glitches, sprightly sparks, and momentary dubby echoes that decorate the groove-less grooves.

    Anyhow…

    Second, one mystery solved. I have sorted out where my mistaken track listing for this album came from, the one with 11 tracks instead of the album’s 10, and some unfamiliar titles: from Hassell’s own website. Here’s the page in question:

    http://www.jonhassell.com/moon.html

    Chances are that page will get corrected at some point, so for the record (and in the hopes of tracking down any alternate recordings), here’s the listing:

    1 Isortoq Unartoq 5:20 2 Time and Place 3:50 3 Abu Gil 12:50 4 From One Place to Another 3:38 5 Last Night The Moon Came 11:18 6 Clairvoyance 1:08 7 Courtrai 5:40 8 Scintilla 0:40 9 Northline 10:21 10 Blue Period 7:52 11 Light On Water 8:07

  7. [ Posted May 25, 2009, at 3:18 pm ]

    I love this – you guys are giving me much food for thought. Mark: I don’t think you have to fear for instrumental facility. From my observation and reportage on the “future music” scene over the last couple of years, I have been consistantly surprised, not just by the level of instrumental facility that underlies much of the electronica (used in the most general sense) I discover, but by the virtuosity of electronic musicians that has nothing to do with traditional instruments, from scratching djs to extrodinarily facile manipulators of laptop controllers.

    The “thoroughness” of Hassell’s work may be due to two things: the the sampling and collage elements of the new record are the modern refined result of the way he has been making music since he started recording, and the fact that he comes from a classical composition background more than a jazz one. Molvær comes from jazz and I would venture to say picks his collaborators and then takes more of the “let the chips fall where they may” attitude endemic to that genre, as oposed to Hassell’s careful crafting of the record as an objet.

  8. [ Posted May 26, 2009, at 1:26 am ]

    My bad re exotic locations, but even so, I struggle with the idea of the exotic in any context because of its associations with empire, canon, etc re Edward Said. In use I think it risks exacerbating more than engaging difference. Also, what is an exotic location in the era of EasyJet? Perhaps that’s one reason why Hassell’s releases are less focused upon particular places? I still agree with Eno’s observation about instrumental facility: Hassell may be more focused upon the erotic, but both share an actively sensual approach – with regard to Eno, think of The Pearl, Music For Films and Airports, etc. Hassell’s music does more convincingly integrate the sexual and the cerebral though. Both however share a much-loved interest in beauty. Despite these disagreements, I very much agree with your conclusion (in 5.)

    Marc, re edge-workers using digital tools (in 6. para 3). I hope so too, but I’m not seeing it yet, it may be that this is an early stage, but I don’t see any successors to the conceptual/instrumental greats such as Miles, whose birthday it is today, and Hassell. I’m also fascinated to see Moritz Von Oswald working with a live trio with Sasu Ripatti (Vladislav Delay) and Max Louderbauer (NSI). There’s an ebb and flow to instrumentation and I’m always interested to see the balance shift, at least I live in hope… Michael, there’s a lot of facility around, but I think the sense of an instrumental great developing a coherent, major narrative is less in evidence than in the past. I think this may have something to do with the silting up of jazz, but is also impacted by the new media/critical landscape and the rate of change facilitated by digital technologies.

    Re the creation of new worlds (6. para 4), Hassell has always done this – each and every album whether it’s first or second tier in terms of the standards he himself sets represents something imaginatively original, this is one of the qualities which makes him great, but which also marginalises him. Essential to this is his discipline which I’d assert originates in his instrumental facility – he only releases an album when necessary. I applaud that. It’s another aspect of a particular form of cultural significance as evidenced also by Scott Walker and Kraftwerk. I like the association with film even though it’s a parallel rather than direct connection – I’d suggest anything by Tarkovsky, Lucas’ THX1138, Goddard’s Alphaville – mixtures of the familiar and the unknown.

    That mysterious first track (Isortoq Unartoq) is tantalising – it sounds like it’s lifted from Borges’ Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius (though it isn’t).

    Re Molvaer (7. para 2) – I’ve listened to Molvaer a lot, attended quite a few concerts and I think he’s a secondary player. His emotional and conceptual range is infinitely more limited than Hassell, he’s effectively borrowed parts of Hassell’s sound and applied breakbeats to achieve a degree of popularity, but as a result he’s a footnote, not an original, which is disappointing because his debut suggested otherwise.

    My iTunes playcount indicates I’ve listened to Last Night The Moon… 36 times and I’m not tired of it yet.

  9. [ Posted May 26, 2009, at 7:28 am ]

    It hasn’t been 20 years that normal, non-geek citizens have regularly had computers in their homes. We have plenty of time for digital tools (and whatever succeeds “digital”) to come around, and perhaps more importantly for them to find their place side by side with more traditional ones — that is, to become traditional themselves. Hassell, by contrast, has generations, centuries really, of accumulated technique to build on.

    There is, per Colin’s mention of “rapid change,” this situation of a lack of standardized tools among digital music-makers, but I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing, myself. It’s what makes listening so exciting today; there is so much “new.” And there’s glimpses of consolidation. Ableton Live in particular, with its partnerships with both Cycling ’74 on a sound-environment-software backend, and Akai on a standard physical hardware interface, seems to be approaching a serious ubiquity-threshold. (That it’s software built by musicians probably helps.)

    It’s as much this break in tradition as it is the availability of common tools that keeps digital (and related, like field-recordings and modified, amplified found objects) from becoming as facile (in the positive sense of the word) as a trumpet, or a guitar. The role of tradition is particularly enticing a subject, because messing with — muddling — traditions is such an important tool for Hassell.

    To defend “exotic” a little, the word has been rightly confronted with its colonialist tendencies, but at this stage, while I don’t employ the term much myself, it’s useable as a purely relative thing — I’m just about as exotic to my newly arrived Japanese and Indian colleagues as they are to me. Global American culture makes me maybe a little more known to them than they to me, but even then, there’s plenty of room for confusion. As for EasyJet, the availability of inexpensive air travel may make physical borders more porous, but we’ve plenty of generations of misunderstanding to overcome.

    In other words, language (musical as well as verbal) being a culture not a code, what makes Hassell’s cross-cultural conglomerations such a triumph is that they do congeal, do find common ground — create common ground — between varied source materials. He does, of course, have the benefit that in some ways he’s really just building on what Miles Davis and Terry Riley and La Monte Young, among others, did. Had they not rooted their music in Eastern/Indian practice, Hassell wouldn’t have as easy a time melding his raw materials.

    Yeah, of the records I’ve listened to this year, I don’t know if there’s one that sustsained repeated listening as much as this Hassell collection. It’s still early on, and at times the Miles Davis references (happy birthday, Miles, wherever you are) may get cloying after awhile, but for now it’s the very picture of heavy rotation.

    I mention Code 46 as one film comparison in particular because it built an imagined world with limited effects, largely using existing elements — mostly locales, further tying it back to Hassell. Yeah, Godard and Tarkovsky and Lucas’s THX are definitely part of that mode, progenitors of that mode; I frequently find myself driving around San Francisco and stumbling on “future” settings from THX 1138, mostly traffic tunnels. And suddenly I’m transported, back to a distant vision of the future. Haven’t felt the urge to shave my head, though — not yet.

  10. [ Posted May 26, 2009, at 7:31 am ]

    And, indeed, the title of “Isortoq Unartoq” is tantalizing — my first thought was it was some Autechre collaboration. We can dream.

  11. [ Posted May 26, 2009, at 7:34 am ]

    Colin, it simultaneously heartens and disheartens me to read your comments about the lack of current greats. Heartens, because sometimes I feel like gramps going, “Back in my day…” Or Gloria Swanson: “We had FACES.” Disheartens, because it appears that it might be the case. Certainly in jazz, which is, grinding technicians out at an alarming rate and new voices not at all.

    I often ponder whether a universally recognized “great’ is possible anymore in this Balkanized age.

    Checking out Moritz Von Oswald on YouTube (you can see him live here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6vb3eWsemM) makes me want hear more to see if there is a Miles level vision or passion there.

    One place I find hope and joy is in the music of the aforementioned Eivind Aarset, who, on his own records, displays a unique approach to the electric guitar combining awesome skills in both the traditional and the digital realms. His music is much deeper than that of his employers, save for perhaps Hassell. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpLUFBal9pM&feature=channel_page

    Also Bugge Wesseltoft has done some very interesting and affecting things especially in collaboration with Sidsel Endresen.

    Happy birthday Miles

    PS Where is Richa

  12. [ Posted May 26, 2009, at 9:53 am ]

    Re Isortoq Unartoq – though Hassell’s not worked with Autechre, I think he may have collaborated with Pole. Something on Maarifa Street uses a Pole sample I believe. The band he toured in ’99 did a fascinating job of engaging with ’90s electronica. It’s a shame the music wasn’t released (it’s only audible on a bootleg). I believe his bass player and producer for the last few years, Peter Freeman, has been key in introducing certain influences.

    Great observation re tradition/accumulated technique Marc, I hear something ageless/ancient in Hassell’s music which surely originates there. That connection with/reinvention of the past using a mixture of contemporary and traditional tools is very attractive to me. Yes he’s building upon the legacy of Miles, LaMonte et al, but he’s also extending the tradition in an original and unexpected way. All power to him.

    Michael, I’m in my early ’40s and try very hard to avoid the gramps thing :-) Ornette’s still alive and kicking, but he’s the last of the jazz greats and he does seem to be looking backwards now, no more Prime Time sadly; the concert I’ll be attending of his next month is entitled Reflections of This Is Our Music… Miles blasted jazz into bits in the ’70s, then some time later Wynton and Crouch swept up the pieces and nailed the coffin lid down. Great improvised music continues to be made all over the world (ECM, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Herbie Hancock, Rune Grammofon especially Supersilent and many others), but it isn’t around a core tradition like jazz any more.

    I don’t think Moritz von Oswald’s direction will be towards Miles, but an organic, extemporised extension of Basic Channel/Chain Reaction will be tremendously welcome. His Recomposed release with Carl Craig last year was a highlight. If I had to put money on future greats, I’d pick him and Arve Henriksen… An ability to reinvent and/or continue to explore deeper and wider is key in this regard. Many artists record one or two brilliant records, but it’s the consistency of enquiry over a lifetime – or at least a number of decades – that marks a small number of great artists out.

    I agree about Eivind Aarset, although I found his latest (Spotify: Sonic Codex) to be less impressive than I’d hoped it would be. I think his peak was the marvellous Light Extracts (Spotify link).

    I’m very much interested by your attention to these artists, a few years back when Norwegian music seemed unstoppable, my impression was that they struggled to get attention in the States. Is that still the case generally?

    Circling back, I’d be interested in your favourite albums by Jon Hassell. Mine are Possible Musics Volume 1 and City: Works of Fiction followed closely by Fascinoma, Aka Darbari Java and this latest one. I’m struck by the fact that I’m choosing his latest album as one of my highlights and wonder whether it’ll be there in 6 months time.

    Currently playing Dark Magus LOUD for Miles…

  13. [ Posted May 26, 2009, at 12:49 pm ]

    I too was a little disappointed with Sonic Codex at first but I have gotten more into it as I listen, I agree that Light Extracts may be the best. Unfortunately the Norwegians can’t seem to get a foothold in the US. I had to go to Montreal and London to see Eivind live. Nils played here a couple of summers ago for one show at Summerstage in Central Park and was great, but was rushed off stage for curfew. I saw Bugge solo, at a tiny bar on the lower east side and he was amazing–looping mouth and other percussion and playing with soul and fire. And don’t get me started on Beady Belle (Beyonce meets Scandinavian jazz in the best way, also on Jazzland). Fortunately they are all doing well in Europe.

    For that matter I was lucky to see Hassell, he doesn’t exactly tour like Dylan.

    As to the tradition, all the greats in jazz broke with what was considered “the tradition” at the time. As a guitarist I tend to focus on that instrument and unfortunately most of the distinctive forward thinking jazz voices there, outside of Aarset (who is no kid), are in their 50’s (Nguyen Le, Scofield and Frisell) and 70’s (Jim Hall who just keeps getting better and more adventurous).

    We may just be going through that cyclical period where the avant-garde is throwing the baby (melody, harmony, emotion, personality) out with the bathwater (old forms, techniques and technology), and the rest are entrenching in the safety of what has sold before.

    But I definitely see a light on the horizon. Violinists like Caleb Buhans and Todd Reynolds are melding classical, electronic and improv in exciting ways, and better yet this seems part of a trend. Guitarist Bill Horist turned in a brilliant sound and noise performance at the Stone quite awhile back.

    I attend and occasionally perform at these Warper parties where I see a host of young artists trying to figure out how to create something new that has value with this wealth of available technology. Even though I don’t listen to him as much as I might I think Fennesz is on to something. His performance with Ryuchi Sakamoto last summer was special.

    I am just delving back into Hassell’s work and want to check out City again–I think I listened to it years before I was ready. I love Fascinoma, as it shows how his vision does not require modern technology. I confess to a preference for the slightly more aggressive Maarifa Street over the new one but only a slight one.

  14. [ Posted May 26, 2009, at 3:19 pm ]

    Regarding the two playlists for “moon”:

    “Isortoq Unartoq” became Aurora

    “Abu Gil From One Place to Another” became Abu Gil

    Bravo you guys for mentioning Eivind Aarset in the conversation.

    JH, Arve and Nils all released albums within a few months of each other and Jan Bang did live remixing on all three. Eivind also played guitar on all three yet each are very different IMHO.

    Has anyone listened to Hamada by Nils? he is not so much a JH protege as he was back in the Khmer days.

  15. [ Posted May 26, 2009, at 9:06 pm ]

    As in any strong review, the collective discussion has me heading into further listening. This is tremendous.

    Nitya, thanks for weighing in. Any sense of what, then, is the “11th track” on the jonhassell.com listing that didn’t make the commercial release?

  16. Richard Kadrey
    [ Posted May 27, 2009, at 5:09 am ]

    It’s funny that Marc pointed me to this record right now. The author William Gibson was just posting online some interesting ideas about atemporality, “Very creative people get atemporal early on. Are relatively unimpressed by the ‘now’ factor, by latest things. Access the whole continuum.”

    Hassell’s work has always had that quality for me, but this album has it in spades. And I can’t tell you exactly why. The combination of instruments? The textures? The rhythms that sometimes feel as if they’re just tagging along for the ride, that the melodic instruments are way beyond needing their direction?

    The album doesn’t feel composed as much as found, not in the sense of old school found sound recordings, but like some intact artifact someone turned up in the basement of a shuttered warehouse. Remember the Krell music in Forbidden Planet? How it was just lying around the interior of the alien world waiting for someone to find it? That’s how this Hassell feels to me.

    And yet, I still don’t know how I feel about it. It’s so loose and snakelike that I’m having a hard time coming to any conclusions about it. I feel like I’m chasing it as much as it’s chasing itself, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. I can’t say that I love it, but I’ve been playing it constantly since I got it. Maybe that’s a good review. I don’t know what this album is, but I keep coming back for more.

  17. [ Posted May 27, 2009, at 5:23 am ]

    Welcome Nitya: the new Nils isn’t available here yet but what I have heard on his myspace page sounds like a departure, perhaps influenced by his soundtrack work. Also more recent YouTube stuff shows him performing with just Eivind and Audun Kleive and taking it further out.

    Once again I have to say though he obviously and admittedly influenced by Hassell, the differences seem derived from Hassell’s roots in classical minimalism verses Molvaer’s roots in jazz

  18. [ Posted May 27, 2009, at 7:28 am ]

    Richard, I hear what you’re getting on about the “found” quality of the music. The best Hassell to me has, very much indeed, this “artifact from the future” vibe, which speaks to its near-familiarity, to the way it keeps itself a little remote, and to how it is so internally consistent even though there’s a fairly small community of people who do what Hassell does. As for atemporality, I don’t use the word “post-modern” much, but that seems to be, in effect, the post-modern state, something Hassell has honed so well that his end result has little to none of the purposefully jarring juxtapositions generally associated with that realm.

    I was listening last night to a lot of Sun Ra, which brought to mind specifically how similarly loose and (to our early discussion-point about group groove) free the music is. It also made me think of Hassell as a band leader — the way Ra was a band leader, and of course Miles Davis was a band leader. I’d love to read a thorough oral history of people who’ve played with him, to know more about how he captures what he captures. How planned are the studio recordings, and how much are they the best takes of numerous group semi-improvisations?

    To Colin’s question about favorite Hassell records, mine are Possible Musics Volume 1, followed closely by the new one. It’s been some time since I’ve listened closely to Fascinoma, but I imagine that would rate high up there, and I’m going to put it back on, shortly.

    It’s comforting to see City: Works of Fiction that high on Colin’s list, because it was the record that turned me off Hassell. To me the electronic element was too front forward, the beats too self-evident. It makes sense that Jeff Rona played on that — I like his movie-score stuff OK, but he’s always struck me as considerably less subtle than others (Cliff Martinez, Clint Mansell, Lisa Gerrard) who do that underscoring-type music (some of whom he has worked alongside).

    Man, this has been a great conversation. Thanks to everyone for participating.

  19. [ Posted May 27, 2009, at 8:41 am ]

    Richard: thanks for bringing up the atemporal thing. That was part of what I was referring to by dislocation. We now live in all times as well as all places (see: Burning Man—primitive rituals meet techno). I think the found quality of Hassell’s work—especially the new one comes from the sure-footedness of his vision, what I call, “the inevitability factor.” All great art appears as if it had to always exist; its internal logic is so strong that seems that it was inevitable. Last Night the Moon… is even more incredible for having that quality while seeming so amorphous.

    Mar: I was talking to Gino Robair about this in January and we agreed that this music can seem simple on some level if you have never tried to make it. I interviewed Hassell and Peter Freeman and in answer to your questions: The studio sessions were planned but very little was used from them. Hassell and Freeman assemble the music from studio, live, soundchecks, and previous records (Blue Period is from a Wim Wenders soundtrack). Hassell is the final arbiter: the recordings serve as the palette and he paints the picture in the mix. He said, “The method shouldn’t control the content. Wherever the spark is, wherever the feeling lies is where I go, whether or not it is a collage of samples, or whether it is the collage of having a live track along with a studio track, that is secondary.”

    It has been a great discussion Thanks to all

  20. [ Posted May 27, 2009, at 10:51 am ]

    Michael: forward thinking guitarists? Don’t forget one of the greatest, another Scandinavian (well, Finnish neighbour of) Raoul Bjorkenheim.

    Avant garde – is there still one in music? Marc, an excellent subject for another Disquiet discussion!

    Regarding your preference for Maarifa Street and Richard’s struggle to get a grip on it, I did mean to say that my first impressions of Last Night The Moon… were somewhat underwhelming, but like all great work in my experience, it’s taken concentration and many listenings to begin to assimilate it. The music is oblique and drifts in under the radar like a coastal mist: at first there’s nothing to see, then next time you look around it’s enveloped you.

    Nitya, don’t get me wrong about Nils Molvaer, I’ve really enjoyed his music I just don’t think he’s in the same league as JH.

    Richard, re atemporality – that’s a core quality which marks out pretty much all of Hassell’s oeuvre (except for City a friend argues, but I disagree). It’s one of the things that makes Molvaer’s music enjoyable but shortlived, the focus upon the contemporary. Funny you should refer to Forbidden Planet, I’ve always thought that City should be playing in the bar in the original Star Wars film or somewhere in Bladerunner.

    Marc, your reference to Hassell as bandleader strikes a chord – he clearly is. I also think of him as an auteur director marshalling his team of experts to discover something new guided by a particular vision. Just as Miles did. That brings us back to the cinematic qualities we touched on earlier.

    Your alienation from City echoes others’ opinions about JH’s oeuvre, also to Bluescreen. I love City’s edits, aggressive approach, unpredictability and alienness. I also love the short fictions written to accompany it, that extending of the music towards something larger than even just the music. The presentation is the one area where I struggle with Last Night The Moon… They’re very nice photographs, but all those pics of the musicians smiling is in danger of dragging the project away from the magical and into the mundane. I suspect that’s the price of rejoining ECM, but it’s not a welcome one. Mystery is essential to magic.

    Will check out Jeff Rona and the others, I’m always on the lookout for soundtrack tips as you know!

    Michael, you confirm what I’d heard about Freeman’s input. He plays a role with Hassell not dissimilar to that played by Henning Schmitz and Fritz Hilpert in Kraftwerk’s rebirth.

    I’ve really enjoyed this chat as well, thanks for inviting me Marc.

  21. [ Posted May 27, 2009, at 2:38 pm ]

    Doh! How could I forget Raoul – I have been a fan since Karakatoa days.

  22. [ Posted May 27, 2009, at 7:57 pm ]

    No mystery 11th track left off “moon”.

    Has anyone had the chance to see Jon & Maarifa Street playing this music live? I saw him in Kristiansand,NO in September. He ended the set with “moon” morphing into Maarifa Street. The band was: Kheir-Eddine M’Kachiche (violin), Jan Bang (live remixing), Jon Hassell (tp, kb), Peter Freeman (bass, loops), Pedram Khavarzamini (tombak [drum]).

    Then I saw them again in February in Vancouver, this time with JA (Dino) Deane on (loops, live remix). The set in Norway was better but the set in Vancouver was dynamite. We all went out to dinner after the set and hung out until 4AM. The restaurant owner in Vancouver knew who Jon was so just kept the place open for us.

    I wrote about Punkt on my SomaFM blog – lotsa pictures!

    http://somafm.com/articles/punkt08-1.html http://somafm.com/articles/punkt08-2.html http://somafm.com/articles/punkt08-3.html

    In the untitled photos I am the bald guy.

    For those that don’t know I am music director for SomaFM’s Sonic Universe.

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