Sunday, July 06, 2014

amazing maze : City: Works of Fiction

One of the reissues of the year is surely Jon Hassell's City: Works of Fiction, out in a deluxe 3 CD package with a 1989 live performance on one of the bonus discs, and remixes on the last.

Well chuffed to have my Melody Maker review of City - in which I described the album as "a labyrinth of deadly deranging beauty, a maze of mirrors" - included in the CD booklet alongside sundry other texts by Glenn O'Brien, Brian Eno, and Jon H himself. 

Jon Hassell - City: Works Of Fiction - Expanded Edition Trailer from All Saints Records on Vimeo.

Around the album's original release I also interviewed Hassell, writing it up for The Observer  and also MM


 But not content with that I also made the 808 State versus Jon Hassell version of  "Voiceprint" Single of the Week in Melody Maker

Tireless supporter, I was!





     Jon Hassell is an avant-garde composer who keeps an eye, or

rather an ear, out for instinctively/unwittingly avant-garde pop

forms like rap and house. (He's described his astonishing album

"City: Works Of Fiction" as "classical rap"). 808 State are a

techno-dance production team who flirt with the avant-garde.

Someone had the bright idea of getting them together, and the

result is this radical remix of "Voiceprint" off the "City" album.

     Hassell's original method of composition reveals how much of

an affinity his way of working has with the sampling aesthetic.

Having got his musicians to play six wildly different mixes of the

track, he chose his favourite sections, drew up a complicated map

between the segments, and programmed it into a computer. The

result: "a mosaic in which each of the tiles is a spontaneous

event", and a brilliant balance between improvisation and

composition, seduction and alienation. 808 State have taken the

abstraction process one step further, by sampling from a vinyl

version of "Voiceprint" rather than remixing the original tapes.

It's a radical reconstruction rather than a track underwrittn by a

standard-issue 1990 groove.

     The result is a richly evocative exercise in unspecific

exoticism: you think of dunes, mosques, mirages, bazaars with their

hubbub of foregn tongues and heady assault of pungent, unfamiliar

fragrances.  Hassell's trumpet calligraphy darts in and out of

808's techno-vistas, synths shimmer like a heat-haze. "Voiceprint"

presents the city of the future as a fractal labyrinth of uprooted

cultures that co-exist but never mingle. Single of the week,

because it's a work of imagination, and it works your imagination.

This week, that's rare.

In retrospect, not all that as dancemix versions of 4thworldly ambientjazz go...  a bit linear.

Here's a more recent remix by Patten that's included on the third disc of the reissue, Psychogeography: Zones of Feeling