The 1980 release of ‘Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics’ ushered in a new way. Through a truly democratic fusion of Western modernity (electronics, studio production) and an organic ‘Third World’ atmosphere of spirituality (provided by improvisational instrumentation) Jon Hassell intended and achieved a sum of two distinct worlds – first and third – and thereby created another – the titular ‘Fourth World’. Whilst the term denotes an unfortunate, exclusive sense of marginality in its original definition, Hassell’s transformative conception heralded a utopian inclusivity, in theory and in form.

Aspirational artistic manifestos aside, the sounds created represent a unique counterpoint. Treated trumpet, Ghatam and Conga percussion, and a diverse, subtle mix of electronics exchange a special dialogue in a constantly astonishing landscape. Forget the conventional partitioning of ‘tracks’, this is a fluid segue through an exotic tundra. Scenes of firelit ceremonies and snake charmers dictated by close air and tropic haze.

To highlight a few special elements and moments within this; the trumpet is an exorcism of exhalations, as if directly threaded through to Hassell’s lungs, the bass frequently provides a spiritual kind of funk, and the percussion unerringly hypnotises. ‘Delta Rain Dream’ is a vivid phantasmagoria, and the mammoth ‘Charm (Over “Burundi Cloud”)’ is founded on a bed of crystal drone, with unstructured billows of looped trumpet and drumming; both standouts within a uniform masterwork.

With Hassell as the edifying orchestrator, and Brian Eno in tow as an advisory presence in production, this record brought forth a neglected but significant revolution in sound. Although firmly based in the imaginative visions and theories of one prominent individual, this is still a world of sound, one of varied presences; an immersive one to inhabit and explore. Essential.


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