Never Heard of 'Em: Jon Hassell
Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.
Dream Theory in Malaya:
Fourth World Volume Two
This is some weird shit, once again! But the good part is it's not incomprehensible, especially the more you listen. Jon Hassell is some dude I know not of, as usual, and I will only google him to explain him to you after I listen some more with virgin ears, so gimme a second.
Dream Theory in Malaya is a lush jungle of sound—if I were a real music writer, I believe this would be the appropriate moment for the word "tapestry," no? (Don't worry, the only music tapestry I'll ever talk about is Carole King's.) Hassell makes a strange garden inside what, in my head, is a curved soundstage, like one of those children's picture books where a kid's playful imagination slowly populates their bedroom with wildness. There are edges of artifice—this can't all be sticks and buckets and real horns, can it?—but they're hard to find precisely. Some of this is surely manipulated. But it also sounds honest, which is most of what I ask of any music.
Inside the bare white walls of this imaginary room, Hassell drags (1) a signal of some kind, a bleeping beacon. (2) Backward trumpets. (3) Farts—I'm just being honest, it's kinda farty. Sorry! (4) Tropical birds, seabirds, ducks. (5) Clapping hands. (6) That guy who drums on upturned buckets, cloned a couple times. (7) An ancient bugle battle cry, blown through a mesh of cheesecloth and cotton balls. (8) The rhyming exhales of strange beings. (9) Musical elephants. (10) The sound a rainbow would make if you could hear it—I know that sounds cheesy. But it's just true! It is! Go to track three, "Dream Theory." Bam! Rainbow sound.
Hey, you know what's weird? This music makes me want to use the word "sonic" all of a sudden, a word I never use. It's like listening to too much out-there music actually drives you toward those music-writer words. I finally see where you're coming from, Dave "Sonic Tapestry" Segal! You can't help it! What a breakthrough.
After googling the fellow, I can tell you dude's a "composer/trumpeter" who calls his genre "Fourth World." It's a "mysterious, unique hybrid of musics that unfolds between the polarities of ancient and digital, composed and improvised, Eastern and Western," says he.
I say: Sometimes it's like a monster made of bells starting to hyperventilate while bored flutists try to distract him, and other times it's like a coyote choir in a canyon playing one big theremin. Oh, also, there's some water. A lot of water, actually. (And some of that fluting sucks. Sorry again!)
I give this a "make plural what you will, bro" out of 10.