Pinhas, Richard - Tranzition
Composer, guitarist and electronics innovator Richard Pinhas is recognized as one of Frances major experimental musicians. A pivotal figure in the international development of electronic rock music, Pinhas' stature in France is analogous to Tangerine Dream's in Germany: the father figure of an entire musical movement. The pioneering, aggressive music produced by his band Heldon during the 1970s, fusing electronics, guitar and rock, heralded the industrial and techno to come and remains today vital and unsurpassed. On Tranzition, Pinhas weaves beautiful, spacey, processed guitar tapestries, with added color from laptop, violin and the drumming of Antoine Paganotti of Magma. The voice of the late author Philip K. Dick can be heard on Moumoune girl, from a 1977 tape that he gave Pinhas. The BBC described his recent guitar music as Music that is in flux and stasis at the same time, with an almost sculptural presence, stuffed with overtones and rich textures. Tranzition is a multifaceted and richly jeweled work in which cause and effect, acoustics and electronics, taped sound and live playing change roles and even realities. "Among collectors of electronic music, some names have become legendary and are present in every search list. These names include Richard Pnhas, the leader of the French cult group Heldon."-Audion.
While his music often seems to exist in the shadows of such legends as Tangerine Dream, Robert Fripp and Brian Eno, Richard Pinhas should be counted among the pioneers of progressive electronic rock. As the original Electronic Guerilla, he was the mastermind behind the incredibly futuristic music of Heldon throughout the seventies, and he has recorded numerous solo projects and collaborations in the years since. Fortunately, time has not dimmed Pinhas’ penchant for sonic exploration, and his 2004 Cuneiform release, Tranzition, proves to be one of his best albums ever.
Pinhas traded in his giant modular Moog and ARP synthesizers long ago. Now he favors making music the small, mobile, intelligent way. These days he interfaces with a variety of powerful effects units via his guitar to create huge, shimmering walls of nearly static sound. Sound familiar? Yes, it can at times, actually. Pinhas has always worn Robert Fripp’s influence on his sleeve, and recent albums show Pinhas following closely behind Fripp into territory very similar to Fripp’s series of “soundscapes” albums of the past decade or so. As always though, Pinhas puts his own stamp on the music and makes it uniquely his own. In the seventies, Pinhas’ music usually displayed a palpable emotional coldness. To some, Fripp may have sounded analytical or remote on albums like God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners or Let the Power Fall, but Pinhas went a step further toward the realms of emotional vacancy.
Like Fripp’s sound, Pinhas’ has warmed a bit in recent years, but only slightly. There’s a hint of wonder at the icy soundscapes stretched out before the listener on Tranzition – a sort of reverence and awe for the stark beauty of the barrenness appears, but many will still find the overwhelmingly electronic palette and uncompromising ambience of Tranzition to be rather frigid.
Seemingly, it takes another musician to bring some humanity to Tranzition. Current Magma vocalist and accomplished jazz drummer Antoine Paganotti delivers some excellent drum work on several of the tracks. Whether it’s the intricate brush work on the aptly named “Dextro,”or the brief injection of funk on “Aboulafia Blues,” Paganotti’s presence here is as welcome in this distant Antarctic outpost as a letter and a care package from home.
Other signs of life here create the sense that we have traveled to a remote colony that has been destroyed in some unknown tragedy. Like a partially damaged mayday recording from the past left for anyone still alive to find it, the disembodied voice of late sci-fi novelist and Pinhas hero Phillip K. Dick appears suddenly on “Moumoune Girl.” It begins to impart some fascinating information about Dick’s own thought-provoking philosophies before the message slowly disintegrates, eventually dissolving entirely under a barrage of drums and a distant guitar solo. The listener is left with a sense of wondering what great mysteries the recording may have helped us solve had it survived.
The album closes with “Metatron (an introduction to),” the most starkly beautiful and soporific piece of the set. For over 24 minutes it undulates, sparkles, glistens, hums, buzzes and evolves, ever so slowly. While it never really arrives anywhere, the point is clearly in the journey. Surprisingly, it sounds not unlike an information age update of Klaus Schulze’s Mirage LP, this time using multiple layers of crunchy guitar and laptop manipulated soft-synth bleeps to achieve a similar effect.
File under: austere beauty.
(Editor, I posted this review at ProgressiveEars.com in 2006. It's still there. I don't mind seeing it reprised here if you don't, but it's up to you. Not sure what PE's policy on this would be.)
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