Hashisheen is one of the many projects created by Bill Laswell, a prolific and eclectic musician, most notably for his work as a Bassist during the 80's and 90's. While Laswell was already recognized as a talented musician by the time this project was started, it is not a straight forward track to track album, the songs were not made with any intention of being heard separate to the vocals, they simply compliment the album's true purpose, to tell a story.
Although there is fantastic instrumentation, the album's main focus lies on it's Spoken Word dialogue, read from the story of Hassan-i Sabbah, founder of the Hashshashin, a legendary group of middle-eastern assassins. One of the key aspects about this album is it's massive cast of featured artists, either as guest producers or to read out different sections of the famed story over different, but all incredibly psychedelic and enchanting Ambient/Drone/Folk pieces. The album features readings from Iggy Pop, William S. Burroughs, Anne Clark, Hakim Bey, Ira Cohen and several others. Guest producers include Jah Wobble, Techno Animal and Eyeless in Gaza.
So what makes this compilation of readings and Ambient pieces so invoking and phenomenal? I think that it lies in it's execution, the story of Hassan-i Sabbah itself is a true epic, but when combined with these fantastic voices, it only gets better. The album's instrumentals are incredible in themselves, an array of instruments used in such a way to create the perfect backdrop to the words being spoken, Laswell's Bass playing and drumming as well as many middle-eastern instruments used in an attempt to keep the feel of the album's music consistent with the dialogue.
This is exactly what I mean by execution, it's not just a collection of music and words, it is Hassan-i Sabbah and the Hashshashin's story come alive again in a fantastic and incredible way, it is a true joy to be taken through the journey of his quest from Persia to the mountains of Northern Iran, his brutal and swift takeover of the fort Alamut, even his extensive study, isolation and eventual death.
The tale of Hassan-i Sabbah has never been told to this extent, although only extracts are read, they are read beautifully, poetically and for just long enough to showcase his whole life, completely revealed to the listener through extraordinary instrumentation, hypnotising Spoken Word and a legendary story that lives on more magnificently than ever in just under an hour. A fantastic and truly unique album, it is Bill Laswell's finest, with help from an array of friends.
The emblem of Alamut holds in the mind, a mondile or magic circle.
Lost to history but embedded or imprinted in consciousness.