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Album Review

"With this record, I locate myself squarely within that aspect of music which is fundamental and irreducible: the beauty of the sound," states Jon Hassell in the liner notes for Fascinoma. Hassell, of course, has spent his career emphasizing the beauty of sound and how recordings capture that better than any other medium. The difference is, with Fascinoma, he weaves unique interpretations of standards like "Nature Boy" and "Caravan" into his own sonic tapestry. Hassell has intended the album as a tribute to the "musical exotica" he heard as a child "on the radio or in movie scores," and his statement unlocks many doors to his music. Echoes of early exotica and evocative jazz can be heard throughout the album, but Hassell pieces it together in an odd, original fashion. Since the record is so quiet, some listeners may dismiss it as mere mood music. This is a valid point; the album creates its own unique, wide open aural vistas. But listen closer and there's some truly startling interplay and ideas, not only from Hassell but from his supporting musicians (who include Ry Cooder and Jacky Terrasson). At times, the gauzy recording can be a little impenetrable, as can the challenging minimalism of the compositions and arrangements themselves. But if the music intrigues you, it's hard not to get swept up in it.

Customer Reviews

Exotic, Intoxicated, and Very Rich

The music on this album, probably Hassell's finest work, is at once surreal, intoxicating, and organic. In other words, very good, and very hard to describe! The ensemble of musicians here provide a textured ambiance of piano, sitar, drones, and chimes, while the main focus of the work -the horn- shapeshifts from flute like tones to barbaric wails to Coletrane-esque riffs. Such strange and sultry work is incomparable. Listen to "Caravanesque" to hear how this can actually Swing. Or on "Mevlana Duke", how this music creates a cinematic snake-charming scenario of tense, dense interplay among the very capable players who perform it. "Nature Boy" is a dark solo rendition that resides in my very heart to this day.
According to the liner notes, this album was recorded on all analouge equipment, without any overdubbing. While being relatively uncommon and yet kinda "hip" in this day and age, it's more than just atmosphere in this instance, and genuinely lends the sound a very hand-crafted and immediate feel that will never be exactly reproduced any where else. I feel this work, while being experimental in genre, is completely assured and powerful in it's form and relies on nothing other than the deft collaboration of talents that can confidently create such a mysterious work.
Personally, I heard this album as a sixteen year old kid, before I'd ever known the music of Brian Eno, Miles Davis, Aphex Twin, or Duke Ellington. Somehow this was the album that really did crack open my ideas of what music could express, and how large the pallate of expression could be.
"Fascinoma" has been a bedrock of musical exploration for me, and if you enjoy challenging, intelligent music, you may well want to look into buying this album. Sample it here on iTunes, and if you buy it, give it a close listen, because it's worth it. If you fall in love with it, as I did, than many repeat hearings reward the listener each time.


Born: March 22, 1937 in Memphis, TN

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Trumpeter Jon Hassell was the originator and unrivaled master of the musical aesthetic he dubbed Fourth World -- in his own words, "a unified primitive/futuristic sound combining features of world ethnic styles with advanced electronic techniques." Born March 22, 1937, in Memphis, TN, he attended Rochester, NY's Eastman School of Music and Washington, D.C.'s Catholic University before studying in Europe under the legendary Karlheinz Stockhausen. After subsequent collaborations with minimalist pioneers...
Full Bio
Fascinoma, Jon Hassell
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