Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics

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Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics
Studio album by
StudioCelestial Sounds, New York
GenreAmbient, world
LabelE.G., Polydor
ProducerBrian Eno, Jon Hassell
Jon Hassell chronology
Earthquake Island
Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics
Dream Theory in Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two
Brian Eno chronology
Ambient 3: Day of Radiance
Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics is an album by Jon Hassell and Brian Eno. It was recorded at Celestial Sounds in New York City and released in 1980 by Editions EG, an imprint label of E.G. Records.[1] "Fourth world music" is a musical aesthetic described by Hassell as "a unified primitive/futuristic sound combining features of world ethnic styles with advanced electronic techniques."[2] Upon its release, the album received praise from a variety of critics.[3]


Hassell's trumpet is the dominant instrument on the whole album, yet, it almost never sounds like one. In "Chemistry" it possesses the quality of a flute; very soft and breathy. At the same time it has an electronic, "treated" edge and "warbles" on the higher notes. A simple, slide bass motif backed by low congas forms the background. "Delta Rain Dream" is similar, minus the bass, and the congas have a more Burundi feel to them, albeit slow and dreamy.[citation needed]

Handclaps are used as percussion in "Griot", which was recorded live at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The trumpet sounds like a broken recording of a wounded animal and also plays a light, high drone in the background, providing a sense of literal ambience. The same trumpet-sound dominates "Ba-Benzélé", which features the return of the congas, and a synth background.[citation needed]

"Rising Thermal" repeats a 4-note, tape-looped trumpet with a heavily treated trumpet over the top that sounds like an eerie human voice. "Charm", which took up the whole second side of the original LP release, is based on some of the longer pieces of Hassell's 1977 album "Vernal Equinox" (1). The voice, this time, sounds like an animal, backed by congas and ghatan and light synths in a drone; the composition is merely a repetition of parts. The trumpets feature a reverse echo.[citation needed]

The album's cover photo is a Landsat photo of the area south of Khartoum in Sudan. The map coordinates in "Rising Thermal" ("14°16'N, 32°28'E") translate to the area shown in the photo. The river is the White Nile, which is also the name of a Sudanese state.[citation needed]

Eno took what he learned from making this album and put it to use in his collaboration with David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Hassell apparently considered that album too "commercial", and castigated Eno in Andy Warhol's Interview magazine for his methods and "lack of musical pedigree". Eventually, they were reconciled.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[6]
All About Jazz4/5 stars[5]
Christgau's Record GuideA[7]
Mojo4/5 stars[9]
Q3/5 stars[9]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[12]

At the end of 1980, Fourth World, Vol. 1 was named one of the year's ten best albums by many critics, including Robert Palmer from The New York Times.[13] Village Voice critic Robert Christgau ranked it sixth on his year-end list for the Pazz & Jop poll.[14] In Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s (1990), he deemed the record "ambient esoteric kitsch" that was "the most seductive (and best) thing Eno's put his name on since Another Green World".[7] Clyde Macfarlane from The Quietus was even more impressed, writing that the album's five "brilliant" recordings channel "some deep psychological urges", "breathe excitement, and are underlined by a heart-pumping, stick-whacking, distinctly human pulse."[15] According to the Spin Alternative Record Guide (1995), Fourth World, Vol. 1 "pioneered the syncretic approach to world music with which so many artists experimented during the '80s".[12]

Track listing[edit]

Side one[edit]

  1. "Chemistry" (Jon Hassell, Brian Eno) – 6:50
  2. "Delta Rain Dream" (Hassell, Eno) – 3:26
  3. "Griot (Over 'Contagious Magic')" (Hassell) – 4:00
  4. "Ba-Benzélé" (Hassell) – 6:15
  5. "Rising Thermal 14° 16' N; 32° 28' E" (Hassell, Eno) – 3:05

Side two[edit]

  1. "Charm (Over 'Burundi Cloud')" (Hassell) – 21:29



  • Jon Hassell – trumpet, Prophet 5 touches on "Delta Rain Dream", "Aluar" loop on "Rising Thermal", ARP loops on "Charm"
  • Brian Eno – background cloud guitars on "Delta Rain Dream", Prophet 5 "Starlight" background on "Ba-Benzélé", high altitude Prophet on "Rising Thermal", rare MiniMoog & treatments on "Charm"
  • Percy Jones – bass on "Chemistry"
  • Naná Vasconcelosghatam, congas, loop drum
  • Aïyb Dieng – ghatam, congas
  • Michael Brook – bass on "Griot"
  • Paul Fitzgerald – electronics on "Griot"
  • Gordon Philips – handclaps on "Griot"
  • Andrew Timar – handclaps on "Griot"
  • Tina Pearson – handclaps on "Griot"
  • Jerome Harris – bass on "Ba-Benzélé"
  • Night Creatures of Altamira – on "Rising Thermal"

Additional personnel[edit]

  • Michael Jay – engineer
  • Peter Sobol – assistant engineer
  • Greg Calbi – mastering
  • Cream – cover
  • William Coupon – Hassell photo
  • Roberta Bayley – Eno photo

Release history[edit]

Country Label Cat. No. Media Release Date
UK Editions EG EGED 7 LP April 1980
US Editions EG EGS 107 LP April 1980
France Polydor 2335 207 LP 1980
US Caroline 1537-2 LP 1980
US Editions EG EEGCD 7 CD 1992
US Plan 9/Caroline 107 CD 1992
Germany Glitter Beat GPLP 019 LP/CD 2014

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kelman, John (4 May 2009). "Jon Hassell: Fourth World and Balancing the North and South of You". All About Jazz. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  2. ^ Ankeny, Jason (n.d.). "Jon Hassell". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  3. ^ Palmer, Robert (20 November 1981). "An Explorer on Music's Borderlands". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  4. ^ Gross, Jason (July 1997). "Jon Hassell interview". Perfect Sound Forever. Archived from the original on 12 May 2013. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  5. ^ Georgievski, Nenad (8 January 2015). "Jon Hassell: Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics (1980)". All About Jazz. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  6. ^ Mason, Stewart. "Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  7. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1990). "Jon Hassell". Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s. Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-679-73015-X. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  8. ^ Sylvester, Daniel (21 November 2014). "Fourth World Music Vol. 1: Possible Musics". Exclaim!. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Brian Eno - Jon Hassell - Fourth World, Vol. 1 Possible Musics CD Album". CD Universe. Muze. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  10. ^ Leitko, Aaron (3 December 2014). "Brian Eno / Jon Hassell: Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics". Pitchfork. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  11. ^ Garratt, John (15 January 2015). "Jon Hassell and Brian Eno: Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics". PopMatters. Archived from the original on 19 January 2015. Retrieved 31 October 2015.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  12. ^ a b Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). "Brian Eno". Spin Alternative Record Guide. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  13. ^ Palmer, Robert (20 November 1981). "An Explorer on Music's Borderlands". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  14. ^ Christgau, Robert (9 February 1981). "Pazz & Jop 1980: Dean's List". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  15. ^ Macfarlane, Clyde (13 November 2014). "Jon Hassell & Brian Eno". The Quietus. Retrieved 31 October 2015.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]