Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Richard Pinhas—Tikkun and Welcome in the Void (Cuneiform)

It’s release day for these two albums (already in my possession through the magic of mail order). Both are demanding listens worthy of your attention. Richard Pinhas is a French guitarist/synthesizer guru probably best known for Heldon, who released seven albums in the ’70s, each one searching for the ideal blend of man and machine…and often finding it. He’s continued along the same ferociously experimental path, and has been incredibly busy lately, touring and recording with kindred spirits everywhere. In fact, he almost played down the street at the Fox Cabaret last summer, but the show fell through. (The Fox wasn’t quite ready to reopen, unfortunately, but it’s too bad the Western Front or VIVO didn’t step in, as either of those would have been an ideal venue.) These two new albums, both on Cuneiform, document two of Pinhas’s latest collaborations. Together they paint an expansive, vivid portrait of his globetrotting, playing-in-the-moment modus operandi.

Tikkun pairs Pinhas with Oren Ambarchi, a multi-instrumentalist who has worked with SUNN O))) amongst many others. It’s a CD/DVD set, with the audio portion consisting of three tracks over 69 minutes. The DVD captures a further 41 minutes of duo madness on stage in Paris. The liner notes are rather cryptic, but from what I can decipher, the CD includes contributions from Joe Talia (track 1, I think), Merzbow, Duncan Pinhas and Eric Borelva (tracks 2 and 3, I think). Track 1, “Washington, D.C. – T4V1,” has some of the relentless, industrial qualities of Heldon, with its sequenced foundation. The guitars don’t waste any time; they raise a storm almost immediately. Ecstatic noise rains down while the drummer bides his time, finally crashing in after about 10 minutes. By now the trio have almost obliterated the sequencer’s pulse as the chaos climaxes. The final 15 minutes see the storm dissipate—the guitars become more spectral, the drums die down to the ticking of the ride cymbal, creating an almost unashamedly beautiful denouement. The feedback that returns just before the end carries a definite threat, though. The next two tracks are little more static. Ambarchi (I believe) lays down some solid beats on “Toyko – T4V2” overtop a subtly shifting drone of guitar, loops and electronic sorcery. Eerie insectoid sounds dominate the opening of the final track before it all rushes headlong into a vortex of transmissions from beyond the cosmos. Overall, these dense pieces are not for the timid or overanxious. It’s music you need to sink into with a generous spirit; it rewards careful listening.

Welcome in the Void is a strange title. In my mind I always correct it to "Welcome to the Void". But this isn’t about what I want, so Welcome in the Void it is. It sounds inclusive and reassuring: “(We are all) Welcome in the Void” is one interpretation. The album fills that void with 68 minutes of free-flowing music from Pinhas and Ruins drummer Yoshida Tatsuya. There are two tracks. Part One is a 4-minute preview or overture for Part Two, which sprawls forth over 64 minutes, which may be a new milestone in my music collection (it outlasts Dopesmoker, but just barely). Pinhas’s tracks of “stereo loop guitar” and “loop stereo guitar” create almost choral melodies. The way sounds emerge and overlap reminds me of No Pussyfooting at times. Yoshida’s drumming brings out the wild side of the music—pushing and pulling with respect to tempo, or appearing in boisterous, freeform bursts—yet he gives Pinhas a lot of space. He even drops out for the final eight minutes of Part Two to let the guitarist bring the track to a soaring conclusion himself. Compared to Tikkun, Welcome in the Void is the easier listen—being strictly a duo recording with a distinct division of instruments, it’s not so much of a challenge to pick out what’s going on—and right now it’s my favourite of the two. Admittedly, this is just after a couple of listens, and my second pass of Tikkun was far more rewarding than my first.

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