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Richard Pinhas: Metal/Crystal

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European electronic pioneer Richard Pinhas has been recording significant work since the early Seventies, with his band Heldon and as a solo artist. For the past decade he has been experimenting with textural recordings and working with international noise artists.

His latest release is a mixture of his old style and new approach...

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RICHARD PINHAS: Metal/Crystal (double CD on Cuneiform Records)

This release from 2010 offers 123 minutes of jarring electronic music.

Pinhas (playing guitars and electronics) is joined by: Japanese noise artist Merzbow (aka Masami Akita, on electronics), American noise artist Wolf Eyes (on electronics and diverse instruments), Antoine Paganotti (on drums), Didier Batard (on bass), Patrick Gauthier (on mini-Moog) Duncan Pinhas (on electronics), and Jerome Schmidt (on electronics). Paganotti, Batard and Gauthier are all ex-Heldon and/or ex-Magma personnel, while Schmidt has extensively recorded and toured with Pinhas for two decades. As one might expect, Duncan is Richard's son, who shows that the apple doesnÕt fall far from the tree when it comes to the ability to deftly manhandle a guitar. The album features engagingly complex artwork by Yann Legendre and Joy Burke.

The first song is a testament to electronics-drenched rock, extremely reminiscent of old Heldon. Cascades of nimble-fingered guitar and dense, gritty electronics accompanied by driving rhythms and popping bass, all compounding to generate a dazed mesmerism that leaves the listener stunned and often exhausted. The music is beautiful in its brutality, spilling forth with each note brandishing flesh-rending fangs.

While the second track maintains a similar level of intensity, there is an atmospheric quality present, albeit a climate more akin to a hurricane. The guitar notes are looped into such compression as to become a continuous stream of savagery in which the intensity achieves a fortitude that borders on agro ambience. This relentless delivery begins to accrete auxiliary guitar threads that increase the severity to a point almost indistinguishable from noise--yet hints of melody remain immersed in the delightfully surging morass. Eventually the chaos settles down (a bit), allowing things to crystallize into some clarity, affording the listener a glimpse of the crisp components that comprised the former growly turgidity. A somber electronic blooping carries things to a somber conclusion.

The first CD winds up with a mega-long track (29 minutes) which employs a fair share of noise sculpture in its opening. Grinding electronics and abstract sounds meander and clash, generating an edgy milieu that is finally joined by PinhasÕ guitar loops which emerge from the smoldering pit like a rising tide. Percussion enters the mix, but it is erratic and takes a while to set a tangible tempo. A hint of structure gradually coalesces, struggling to maintain itself amid the chaos. This conflict goes on a long time, and slowly the snarl of an auxiliary guitar bullies its way to a vantage of partial triumph. The miasma persists, though, fighting to suppress melody and regain dominance. The drumming achieves a frenzied accompaniment to the strife. There is no victor as the elements continue their duel right through to the fade-out.

The second disc features three tracks: a pair of 28 minute pieces and a short one (7 minutes might not be considered "short," but it is compared to the length of the rest of the albumÕs tracks).

The first one comprises more applied chaos. Bubbling diodes bluster with growling electronics and sporadic beats. Guitar wailing force their way into the grinding mix, blending with the overall cacophony. A flow is somewhat established as these aspects threaten each other into a dire form of coexistence.

The next track is more temperate (ha!). Guitar stylings usher the listener into a realm of conflicting noise consisting of harsh electronics and demented impacts. Here, though, the guitar holds sway as he dominant element, while the rest of the noise growls and squeals from a submerged position. Eventually the guitar (now engaging in savage gymnastics) attains even more supremacy, and the beats achieve a rhythmic posture. The piece is slowly mutating into solidarity, albeit one rich with hostility, like post-apocalyptic freeform jazz. Everything ultimately congeals into a blinding white noise of fierce unity.

The album culminates with a piece that exemplifies Pinhas' ability to harness overt intensity into a mellower mode with counterpointing guitar tracks in which feedback caresses meticulous sustains mixed with crafted chords of delicate illumination.

While the bulk of this album offers an extreme dose of modern noise sculpture, there exists adequate evidence blended into the chaos and featured in crisp purity) of classic Pinhas to satisfy old school fans.

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