Jon Hassell/Farafina – Flash of the Spirit

Album Review | Glitterbeat | Review by Allan Wilkinson

This re-issue of the landmark 1987 ‘Fourth World’ record, produced in collaboration between the celebrated production team of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, Flash of the Spirit takes us back to the fruitful marriage of Jon Hassell’s inventive ambient explorations and West African percussion/voice featuring the eight-piece Burkina Faso ensemble Farafina, who took their balafon beats, flute flurries and ethereal voices to new places back in the mid-80s, which back then was pretty new. Eno and Lanoise were barely off the sound desk piecing together U2’s Joshua Tree, when this project came along to change things around a bit.

In places, notably on “Air Afrique”, one imagines back then that the purist might object to authentic traditional dance music being invaded by modern electronic atmospherics, but then again those into ambient music might think the opposite, that the drum and whistle gets in the way. Those who can enjoy both the ancient and the modern equally will probably enjoy this particular sonic blend. The album closes with perhaps its most memorable piece “Masque”, a sprawling eleven-minute epic of tension piled onto more tension with little release, which perfectly showcases the ensemble’s adventurous spirit.