Jon Hassell, "Pastorale Vassant" (Ndeya)
I'm not sure enough hoopla has been generated about Jon Hassell's latest album, Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One). I wrote about its lead-off track, "Dreaming," in an Inbox Jukebox column back in April, and it's received some decent press elsewhere, garnering a 84 percent rating on Metacritic, although most of the reviews have come from the UK. But overall, the reaction seems too tepid for how great of a late-career effort this is. The 81-year-old trumpeter is still creating sublime, preternaturally chill music at an age when most of his peers have fallen way off or... have died.
"Pastorale Vassant" adds yet another layer of intrigue to Hassell's Fourth World Music concept (i.e., sounds from "unknown and imaginary regions"). Typically, this has resulted in works that fuse cool jazz, ambient, drone, and non-Western hand percussion timbres and patterns into aural enigmas that compel you to listen intently and repeatedly. I've been absorbing Hassell's records for about three decades now, and I never tire of their mysterious beauty and riveting amorphousness.
"Pastorale Vassant" maintains Hassell's sonorous, eerie dronescaping while adding uncharacteristically jittery, skittering rhythms that come off as microbial, metallic drum & bass beats. More so than with his other releases, there appears to be a commingling of organic and synthetic elements and techniques at play. The result with this song is uniquely unsettling... but in the most calming manner. Paradox rocks.