Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume One) by Jon Hassell


He’s collaborated with everyone from Brian Eno to Moritz Von Oswald, From Björk to Terry Riley — and Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume One) (Ndeya), due out this week, is Jon Hassell‘s first record (LP/CD/DL) in nearly a decade. These eight tracks are a journey for this coanceptual brass player, into his past rhythmic style, yet updated and so fresh. Of Mati Klarwein‘s sumptuous coverart Hassell reveals: “whose paintings have always been my kind of music”. And the same visual attitude bleeds into the sound here, Dreaming is a blend of pastel layering and montaged bits of elongated breathy harmonies.


pen·ti·men·to / noun
Reappearance in a painting of earlier images, forms, or strokes that have been changed and painted over.


The pitter patter percussion on Picnic brings this long-time composer’s oeuvre decades ahead of some of the signature sounds he’s produced in the past. It keeps pace like a fine blend of Hauschka and Nicolas Jaar as seen through a worldly scope, all with a liquid ambient core.

Jon Hassell Press Pic by Roman Koval

Slipstream is a blend of electronics and sweet sweet horn. It plays hide and seek with your eardrums, fluttering in and out of partially shuttered range. Tribal themes are elusive throughout but come to the fore on Al Kongo Udu only to be aided and abetted by a funky contemporary earthy beat, and scintillating soundwaves.

This track alone could be extended the entire length of an album, so much to explore in the fusion of rubber rhythm and spartan electronics. With inflections of IDM on Pastorale Vassant I’m imagining what this may sound like as a set of potential remixes by Autechre and Funkstörung, etc. It’s interpretive movements swim through a tangly jangle of strings that are quite airy.


Hassell has always been ahead of his time, but he’s finally caught up on this records, and as intended we will be anxious for volume two in the near future. And he is doing it his way, on his own label, so expect it as well as re-pressings of classic wax. On Manga Scene, a jazzy romantic horn floats in the hazy background as broken electronics and austere limb breaking, coin spinning percussion flow between atonal and quite composed. Is this a future world of animatronic bots? On the title track, which serves as the end scene, the atmosphere continues in dusky tonalities and slithering percussion. A charmer.

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