From Aural Innovations #4 (October 1998)
In our time there is a phenomena of being saturated with the output of musicians. Current technology has developed a situation in which all musical forms are more easily and readily available, opening up possibilities to access music one had to search all over for 20 years ago.
Electronic Music, Progressive Rock and various schools of African Amerikkkan Classical music have benefited from this loosening of the means of producing recordings, and formerly Rare/OP material is now easily found in retail chains such as the local Tower Records outlet!
In the Sixties, musicians reacting against the restrictions of the Popmusic format began experimenting with the incorporation of other forms of music (60's Jazz, Classical Electronic and Ethnic Music) with Rock rhythms, and the power of Electronics. YES, KING CRIMSON, GENESIS, VAN DER GRAAF, HAWKWIND, SOFT MACHINE, and PINK FLOYD all began in this era, laying a groundwork that was to begin to be explored in earnest in the 1970's.
This movement of "Progressive Rock" became an international wave during the decade, and had a particular affect on a number of musical units located in Paris, France. The rejection of Pop formats and imitations of Anglo-Amerikkkan Rock music didn't suit a number of musicians whose works couldn't be confined to such formats. Magma, Patrice Vian, and numbers of others began to work independent of the cultural Imperialism represented by bands like Lil' Bob Story, who simply copied Amerikkkan Sounds.
Started in 1970 in the wake of residencies in Paris by members of Chicago's AACM organization, most of the NYC FreeJazz players, and very heavy support of Miles Davis' excursions into the use of Rock rhythms and Electronics, and the profound input of expatriates like Daevid Allen's Gong/Soft Machine axis, LARD FREE began to explore the creation of a music informed by the input from these sources.
Drummer Gilbert Artmann, who'd previously been associated with a variety of French Jazz groups, founded Lard Free. Bringing together Reeds, Guitars and Synthesizers, the band excelled in creating pieces of music that were strikingly original, improvised from just a few melodic/rhythmic/atonal ideas!
LARD FREE (1973), the group's first LP, displays the musical direction Artmann is interested in taking with this band! The chief influence on the music at this point seems to be Miles Davis' electronic bands of the era. "Warinobari" which lead off the record, displays all of the band's musical trademarks. Beginning with a Rhythmic ostinado from BassGuitar and Drums, then the Alto & Guitar blow in, Francois Mativet's solo showing influences of recent Paris resident, Amerikkkan Guitarist Warren (Sonny) Sharrock. The tune Rocks on out, utilizing varied dynamic effects to reach conclusion. "12ou 13 Juillet Que. Je Sais D'elle" is a piece involving use of the ARP 2600's Sample/Hold, Filter and Envelope circuits, while Alto saxophone manipulates modality, pedaltones, and sustains, processing the horn with (what sounds like) Echoplex gives more body to the sound. One can note that most of these pieces are composed around very simple rhythmic/melodic ideas, a rare gift in a world of overindulgence and bombast!
"Honfluer Escarlate finds the musicians acknowledging FreeBop roots, Guitar soloing first over the rhythm, shifting to atonal chords when the Sax enters, going straight into the fire of the rhythm section, then exploring as many different areas as he can get to, the rest of the band coming steady and strong behind!
"Acide Framboise" serves up some strong Soft Machine influences, Artmann accenting the off-time beats first on snare, then shifting it around to other parts of his kit! Once again, Guitarist Mativet smokes. Great distortion/feedback high-energy solo, yet his roots as a Wes Montgomery based guitarist showing through as his Hollowbody Guitar feeds back! The Alto is subdued, preferring to work the delay to give a double track effect.
"Livarot Respiration" is an interesting piece of Electronic Rock, with the ARP 2600 playing the Bassline, Guitar out front with a sedate Blues solo. Again one is impressed with Artmann's ability to accent the off-time with his unique, one-of-a kind approach.
"Culturez-vous vous-memes" is the last track, a short melodic line played first on Vibraphone, expanding into a duet with Bassist Eyhani (whose work is fabulous throughout), then Tenor Saxophone and Guitar play solos based on the melody. (Which shows up again over 5 years later in the repertoire of Artmann's URBAN SAX project.) The piece actually fades, then comes more work on the (then new)ARP 2600 Synthesizer... I own this instrument and have always enjoyed it's sound, so this coda is a joy as Control Voltage panning sends the synth's output across the stereo field. Finally, Acoustic piano closes the LP, individual notes allowed to decay into thin air!
Obviously, the only complaint is that this CD is only 34 minutes long (same as the LP). I am sure that Spalax music could have dug up more material from this period, or even combined LP's 1 and 2 onto one CD! I myself have live performances from this period via Bootleg Cassettes, and would have loved to hear them digitally remastered on disc! And one winces at the price, even though it's worth not buying the new Yes CD to own!
The years 1974-1975 saw important changes going on in this corner of the Paris underground. Lard Free was actively doing gigs out of their Place Pigall studios. Early in 1974, and after an Island Records rejection, Richard Pinhas organized HELDON, and recorded, pressed and distributed the LP "ELECTRONIC GUERILLA" (reissued by Cuneiform Records USA). I must note the fact that on CD these tracks are in a different order than the original LP, so it feels as if the music is new again.
The release begins with "ZIND", and immediately Pinhas impresses the listener with mighty blasts of Filter Oscillator from his EMS AKS, panned across the stereo field. As the first decays, one hears another, then the filter is swept the opposite way to emphasize the beat frequencies and phase effects when the two tones are combined. Very Simple idea, yet one which is magic in the hands of a skilled instrumentalist such as Pinhas!
"BACK TO HELDON" is up next, and fades in on a tidal wave of Sequencer while Pinhas enters with a display of multi-tracked Fission Guitar. Tending towards a heavier tone than obvious influence Robert Fripp, Pinhas' sound seems to sustain longer, and his Hendrix debt shines as he works his Blues-inflected line into the swing of that fine AKS Sequence. The piece reaches apogee, guitar wailing, to the outro and into of another melodic Sequence. As the new pattern is established we are treated to the bubbling on LFO modulated Oscillator, then sweep's and creshcendi/decreshendi from the other Synthesizer tracks. This is a mesmerizing performance and one can imagine Island Records' executive reactions to this kind of challenge to the musical status quo.
Alain Renaud makes an appearance on "NORTHERNLAND LADY", playing a number of tracks of Echoed Acoustic/Electric Guitar arpeggios while Pinhas plucks a Guitar solo, his sustain lasting so long it's unreal, and his subdued Synthesizer work maintains the groove while pedaltoning the Root. Over the top is a conventional keyboard solo one is able to play on the AKS' touchplate Keyboard. (Pinhas appears on Alain Renauds' first LP, titled "NorthernLand Lady", released on Urus Records. The LP has long been deleted. Generally it is good, full of Guitar tracks similar to this.)
"OUAIS MARCHAIS, MIEUX QU'EN 68" makes strong reference to PINHAS days on the barricades in the Paris uprising of May 1968, which (according to interview) says Radicalized his political/musical outlook. By far the track is almost conventional with strong references to 1970-1971 King Crimson or early Gong. The band assembled for this date included George Grublatt (Synthesizer), Gilles Deleuuze (Vocals... very important figure in French Philosophy circles), Patick Gauthier (Piano & Synthesizer), Coco Roussel (before his move to USA and work with Happy the Man), and Pierre Roussel (BassGuitar), all accomplished musicians and players who were to contribute to HELDON in the future.
"CIRCULUS VITIOSUS" follows, another treat for Sequencer and Guitar, whose muted tone leads one to conclude it is being processed via the AKS audio input which is a highly effective instrument processor. Check Pinhas' note bends and the unique way by which he executes triplets, and his control of the amplifier feedback to maintain the Guitar sustain.
"BALLADE POUR PUIG ANTICH" is a tribute to one of the many martyrs who have fallen in the ongoing struggle to change and humanize Western society. Washes of Synthesizers White Noise drift in the background while Guitar plays a simple, almost "Ethnic" type melody, which embeds itself in the memory. Synthesized Blips/lost Radio signals ride the track out into fade, and the disc ends leaving one in a satisfied state of having heard a very impressive debut! (NOTE:"Electronic Guerilla" is currently in release as part of a double CD with HELDON III..."It's Always Rock & Roll", Available on Cuneiform Records.)
Both Lard Free and Heldon entered 1975 full of promise, with both concert activity and new LP's for the marketplace. Aware of each other's work, there began an exchange of concepts and ideas between the bands, in both musical and philosophical terms.
"HELDON II..."ALLEZ TEIA was released on Disjuctia Records and shows a somewhat more structured and subdued approach than the first LP.
"IN THE WAKE OF KING FRIPP" is an obvious tribute to one of Pinhas' principle musical influences. Waves of Mellotron create a fertile bed for RP's guitar improvisations with the synthesizer taking the bottom in lieu of having a Rhythm section. "APHANISIS" is next, an interlude featuring Georges Grunblatt and Alain Renaud creating pastoral sounds on 2 untreated Acoustic Guitars.
"OMAR DIOP BLONDIN" seems almost a throwback to the first LP, with a very serious Guitar solo by RP soaked in fuzz and Distortion and a good helping of that patented Guitar sustain! "MOBIUS" is a short connecting piece, utilizing what sounds like ARP 2600 and Sequencer playing one line, EMS AKS playing another to evoke the idea of looking at one of Escher's "Mobius" strips. A very disorienting visual experience!
"FLUENCE" begins mysteriously, with Synthesizer and Mellotron playing off a couple of minor chords while another pulsation is established, setting the stage for arpeggio Guitar to enter. Various drones are introduced behind the Mellotron (which is played beautifully throughout the release... until recently a maligned instrument, but one that sounds like no other in the hands of sympathetic operators). The longest track on the LP, another strong outing for RP's guitar work.
More Mellotron/Arpeggio Guitar is the stew "ST.MIKAEL SAMSTAG AM ABENDS" is made from, RP ripping off a sedate yet charged solo with his liquid butter sustain adding any tensions to a sedate piece!
This remarkable disc ends with another Acoustic Guitar piece, both players utilizing a deceptively simple structure over which to improvise, and a nice change from the heavy Electronics heard the rest of the way through. What is a stellar second achievement!
1975 also saw the release of "I'm AROUND ABOUT MIDNIGHT", LARD FREE's second LP, and low and behold, RICHARD PINHAS is listed as a band member (credited with Guitars, BassGuitar, Synthesizers) and recently arrived BassClarinetist/Saxophonist Alain Audet also plays Synthesizer! Antoine Duvernot rounds out the band with Alto and Flute. I first encountered this LP for $1.00 in a final sale bin in 1976, and my used copy had intense surface noise (as if someone had spilled his or her bong onto it!) on both sides as well as a very ripped cover... this music must have really upset the owner who probably used it as a Frisbee or doorstop! A Treasured acquisition, the music on it almost leaping out of the speakers to challenge the listener with a completely different approach and strong innovation!
"VIOLEZ L'ESPACE de SON REFRIGERANT" begins the side, billows of White Noise waft into the drone crafted from ARP 2600 and VCS-3 synthesizers, with another layer added via a filtered/enveloped drone in key. The listener gets this effect of floating in Space as he listens. Both saxophonists pick up on this drone, electronically treated by Echoplex so the final result is a strong, thick sound as the piece progresses. The work flows along into "IN A DESERT-ALAMBIC", which begins with a rhythmic line played on BassClarinet and Drums! This is rollicking sound, as the white noise continues to blow, and Pinhas slides right in with a wild guitar solo. This is an impressive combination that builds the music into something unlike any of their contemporaries' (or even influences) works at the time!! Just a wonderful piece, and this segues into one of the best known of Artmann's compositions, "DOES EAST BAKESTAN(?) BELONG TO ITSELF".
Unlike the more familiar (to US Listeners)URBAN SAX version, this killer little "folk" melody is articulated by Artmann on multi-Vibraphone, while Pinhas' blueses up his Guitar fills. Without the sustain and distortion he sounds like he's pining for Jimi's ghost, and the Enveloped/filter Synthesizer drone provides a perfect Rhythm bed for the entire affair, Liquid flute panned left/right, dancing on the chords suggested by the Vibes. The whole affair fades back into the Synthesizer drone we began with, ending what originally was side one of the vinyl.
Yet another of Artmann's signature pieces is entitled, "TATKOOZ A ROULETTE". Minus 50 Saxophones, the melody line is played by Tape-delayed/spliced Hammond Organ, while Piano chords appear courtesy of Razorblade. On top, another layer, this time a sequence from the EMS. Surprisingly, there are no horns on this track. One's interest is captured and held by the Synthesizer as it moves around your ears, and the sequence is swept as it passes the instrument's filter (those who own URBAN SAX I and II are urged to compare the different versions of these tunes!) More and more layers get added and treated until the White Noise wind blows us into "PALE VIOLENCE UNDER A REVERBERE". I cannot figure out why this track appears both here and on HELDON III. Still a fine example of how this band sounded live, but the repetition was unnecessary, and, being a jam (obviously), it should have been allowed to be heard a little longer! Pinhas, however, does his thing to a tough odd meter beaten out by Artmann until that old "wind" blows again into "EVEN SILENCE STOPS WHEN TRAINS COME".
A pretty piece for Piano and Synthesizer, one hearing an obvious tribute to Coltrane (in the modalism of the work), and in particular Trane's Pianist McCoy Tyner! I myself am not a fan of Piano, but this is a stellar ending to what is for me a very strong Release. Even the poor quality bootleg Cassettes obtainable of this material allow the strength of the music to overcome sonic handicaps, and it comes through hard, loud and unceasingly innovative!
In 1986, I wrote an appreciation of "HELDON III.... It's Always Rock & Roll (it appears in A/a Music Journal 9/86, track it down!), and despite a certain Ambivalence on RP's part about the success of the project musically (Interview in "Audion #8, 1990), I felt then and maintain it as one of my very favorite Heldon works even now!
Recorded 12/74-3/75, this double LP shows almost all the areas in which Pinhas was operating at the time, short tracks on sides 1 and 3, two long tracks on 2/4. Being a Double CD release with "HELDON I", the LP is broken up strangely, what would be side 1 appears on the first Disc, while the rest is on Disc II.
One might compare side one to the first two HELDON releases, the signature HELDON attributes... Mellotron, wailing Guitars, Swooping Hefty doses of Electronics. Sides two and four take a different directions towards improvisation, and actually dispense with Guitar altogether.
"AURORE" is based on a drone patched on ARP 2600, with swooping interjections from EMS VCS3, and solo statements played on the ARP keyboard. Thicker tones fade into harmony with the original drone forming an unpitched chord. The VCS3 familiar White Noise blasts modulate into an ostinado, while another Rhythm pattern is heard from 2600, the S/H also sending voltages to sounds played from the keyboard, adding staccato to RP's solo.
All the while, the drone is reinforced by guest Ariel Kalma playing Indian Harmonium, a natural, uncontrived attempt at fusing Acoustic Traditional Instruments with modern technological ones! During one of the VCS3's passes, Pinhas' dog takes a cameo vocal via phase-shifted Tape! This track is worth the price of the CD, perfect music for meditation with whatever you choose, just knockout stuff!
"VIRGIN SWEDISH BLUES" follows, an almost traditional piece of SpaceRock, Mellotron playing off a chordal Rhythm, Arpeggiated Synthesized Guitar and the usual Pinhas' crushing of his Guitar Amp, sustaining the hell out of the thing! "OCEAN BOOGI" is a fine display of control of the Mellotron with a sedate Guitar solo, but only average BassGuitar work, proving that BassGuitar isn't Guitar, and isn't usually easy for guitarists to master. This lapse is made up by those Mellotrons! (musician owners of E-mu "CLASSIC KEYS" should take note here of the quality of the real thing!)
"ZIND DESTRUCTION" is for Solo Synthesized Guitar, and shows how much control this guy plays with! Processing Guitar via the VCS3, and utilizing the Filter almost into Oscillation RP makes the combination really work as he goes in for the (Hendrix) inspired kill! I'd love to ask RP how many Amps/speakers he's blown over the years! The main event finally appears on side 4, a tour de force entitled "DR. BLOODMONEY", an evocation of the novel by Philip K. Dick (to whom the track is dedicated... I urge you to read this, it's a fantastic trip into one's ColdWar childhood!). Sequencers are the main control devices on this tune (although it sounds like Pinhas is using an AKS as well as VCS3). ARP Keyboard solo statements rise and fall in the swirling sound, and different sequences take different directions in the tune's B section until drums begin to make a thunderous appearance! Kickin' it all the way, Drums, Sequencer and Solo Synth ride the tune to a blaze of glory, last strains of the tune closing a truly Deep piece of music!
Available in the last few years is a Bootleg LP, believed to have been issued in the US, of an ORTF Paris FM Radio broadcast dated 6/26/75. Bootleg Cassette collectors have had easy access to this date, but it is prime early HELDON. Familiar themes from these first three LP's show up, as well as some deft guitaring from RP. I'm fairly certain the other player on this date is Georges Grunblatt. On LP the sound quality is improved somewhat from cassette, the major drawback being the fact that Side 1 ends in the middle of a nice transition! Also included on this release is an alleged studio track from 1982 and the piece is not familiar. So that's a bonus! The product was a limited pressing of 100 (I got #85 Mr. Bootlegger!), and while not the best press or vinyl one to be grabbed if found!
LARD FREE were very much a live grouping during this period, and some dates are available on Cassette from collectors (wish someone would get this stuff digitally cleaned up and mastered to CD) are a small yet extremely insightful number of recordings.
4/8/74 (often seen as 8/4/74 or 9/8/74, these are erroneous) Paris (origins of the tape are unknown to me) opens with a dose of heavy Synthesizer, plus Tenor Saxophone with Echoplex Sound-on-sound, and the Alto Chimes in with tuneful little Arabesques! The thing begins to go out, Artmann bringing a strong rhythm in on Drums, Synthesizer exploring a full harmonic range as well as maintaining that strong dark bottomend drone! Glissando Guitar is heard here and the thing drives further on and out. "East Bakestan" shows up but is given savage treatment as Guitar finally gets into it fully! The Vibes and Guitar combination end the piece, which almost immediately moves into Artmann on Piano. Then Electric BassClarinet begins the Rhythmic chant of "In a Desert", with Rocking FreeDrums by Artmann right up front. His style here a combine of Jack DeJohnette and Robert Wyatt! Octave Divided Alto enters with a counterpoint line letting loose with obligatti in bursts of sound! The Electronic Treatments on the horns add another complete dimension to the sound. Then Guitar also chimes in with fractured chord patterns, and atonal phrases. The horns continue to explore the rhythmic line acapella before the line collapses. Listeners will find some tonalities played by the horns here prototypes of the URBAN SAX "Multi-Phonic" Saxophone Sound!
"Takooz" begins with EMS AKS Sequencer, and a little Filtered White Noise and Enveloped #2 Oscillator. Transistor Organ is heard playing an Arpeggio in tune with the sequence. But Synthesizer dominates, a fine display of exploiting much this instrument can do. The thing ends with Synth up around 14K, then those Rocketship noises blast us on off, the guitar joining in!
Off this vibe comes a rather Boppish Alto solo, with a loose swing from Artmann on drums, which beckons the rest of the band to join in. But HERE THE TAPE CUTS!!! Yet this is a fine show, and another of the many shows that should be Digitally Cleaned and released. (Mr. Bootlegger take note!!)
Another Date, 10/2/75 (Paris), begins with "Tatkooz", stated by Electric Piano and (what sounds like)ARP 2600. Then Guitar makes it's appearance, and with lovely sustained tones. Also one observes that the horns are gone and Piano has been added, a distinct change in the band's sound.
A new piece makes it's entry balanced on one of Artmann's drum ostinados, the entire band comping to the drums into yet another (then new) piece for Sequencer, Piano and Guitar, which delivers a very interesting solo!
The "East Bakestan" riff, this time stated by Vibraphone, Electric Piano and Synth, with Glissando Guitar lending some atmospheric effects. A drum pattern makes it's entrance, but it's an old CR-78 drum machine. Artmann has no trouble developing his solo over it and the band pick up on the groove as Guitar gets up front! The Pianist actually keeps all the drive behind this groove and manages not to resort to what would be jive-sounding hip Pianism's! Finally our man gets to the drums, and everyone's kicking this riff. Even the "drummer in the box" is heard pushing it's clave' on the off rhythm! Another spaced Guitar solo is taken as the band begins to fade the riff out, and, once again, the tape ends here!
As stated above, these two dates show the growth and progress of LARD FREE over a year and a half. Throughout, Artmann is able to resolve not having a Bassist by emphasizing strong drum rhythms, and by assigning bass parts to whatever is available. His horn arrangements are noteworthy, utilizing the technique of making two Saxes sound like more with both Electronics and tantalizing harmonies!
Meanwhile, in September of 1975, work was begun on HELDON IV "AGNETA NILSSON". The LP itself was finished and issued in early 1976 on Cobra records, and is transitional as Pinhas began to work towards a regular "band" concept.
"PERSECTIVE I" is based on employment of ARP 2600 and Sequencer, which state a sequenced White Noise patch while another track of White Noise simulates the sounds of Flying, and a flight of Mellotrons express a stately melody backed by Synthesizer. Although this track is edited, I view it as one of the highlight "early" Heldon works! Of special note is Pinhas' work on the ARP. He possesses a grand tone on this instrument! Kudos also for fine sounding Mellotron... alas, the track fades at 10:26, in my opinion too short!
"PERSPECTIVE II" is basically Sequencer and percussion, and seems kind of throwaway, more a first take rather than a complete piece (said within the context of acknowledging none of RP's work is throwaway!)
"PERSPECTIVE III" (BADER-MEINHOFF BLUES) driving ARP Sequencer and EMS Filter Sweeps. Pinhas' Guitar finally makes it's entrance, white-hot and burning up and over the Sequence! He busts out into JH territory as the sequence alternates and changes speed and the Guitar gets stronger and heavier. Again, remarkable tone in the bass end from RP! "BASSONG" is a nothing track, sounding more like Alain Renaud than HELDON, and is almost a distraction! Mercifully, the tune is short.
"PERSPECTIVE IV" shows the stark changes taking place, and is worth the price of this reissue! RP begins the tune with strong stuff. Multi-tracked Guitar with his infinite sustain punctuated by swirling Synthesizer. Percussion makes it's entry, then a familiar sequencer pattern, another layered over that and what sound like a little Synthesized percussion stuff. Out of nowhere Pinhas enters with a Hard Rock Guitar riff, swiftly picked up by BassGuitar (Allain Bellaiche), Drums (Coco Roussell), and Patrick Gauthier (Mini-Moog)! They blast into a bit of Mahavishnu-type R & R, Pinhas still in Jimiland, and Gauthier's solo is relaxed. Yet he trades quick 4's with guitar, RP ripping off intensities one after another until the track fades into Sequencer and Drums. Rousell solos confidently over the sequencer beat (one wonders why he sounded so sedate during his tenure in HAPPY THE MAN?!).
In many respects, "AGNETA NILSSON ties up some loose ends, and concludes a very different release from what's heard on track one. Critically, the LP got dissed, some writers complaining about HELDON's "Overhead Pipes of Hell" sound, and made disparaging references to Pinhas' use of Guitar Sustain!
When released in the US in 1977 on AURAL EXPLORER Records, "PERSPECTIVE IV" was edited and band tracks were cut and replaced with three tracks from HELDON III for some unknown Reason! I'm given to understand that those who hold this version are considered to own a collector's item... needless to say, the LP didn't go anywhere here. 1977 was the year everyone wanted "BOSTON"(YUCH!!!!!!!!!!)
Somewhere in here (Winter 1975-Spring 1976), Pinhas acquired a rather expansive Moog Synthesizer and began recording tracks that would find their way onto his first official solo LP "CHRONOLYSE", and the beginning of one of his most prolific periods. "Variations 1-7 sur le Theme de Bene Gesserit" is a sonic study which explores the properties of a series of sequences taken at different speeds as it is swept by those gorgeous Moog Filters, all recorded live (on a Revox tape machine). Each is striking in the use of the basic materials, and RP orchestrates the various sound sources to create a dense polyphonic atmosphere. Especially of note is the quality of the Bass end of the music and the ever-present echo, which adds greatly to the size and density of this sound!"Variation 6" impresses in it's resemblance to the music being composed by Phillip Glass at the time. "Variation 7" moves the sequence up a few octaves, the arpeggiated oscillator grabbing the interest of anybody whose attention isn't riveted on the first note of this great release! Throughout, Pinhas' manipulation of both Filter resonance and Envelope controls add nice coloristic effects to the parts.
"Duncan Idaho" develops a number of the "Variations" ideas even further, adding a number of interlocking counterpoint melodic sequences to form the pieces. As the piece cycles through it's chords the sequencer bass bangs away in 4/4, never letting the listener forget the Rock that's at the root of this music! Note that the Cobra Records vinyl issue of the LP fails to mention this track on the sleeve. Corrections have been made on the CD issue but I feel the cover reproduction for the CD is sorely lacking compared to the LP (of course, the sound quality is enhanced on CD).
"PAUL ARTRIDES" takes up all of side 2 of the LP, and seems an extension of the music which appears on AGNETA NILSSON while foreshadowing much of what became known as the "classic" HELDON sound. The track starts with a lovely drone laid out on ARP 2600, Mellotron thickening up the atmosphere, punctuated by hissing White Noise and rhythmic filter sweeps. Although based on a static rhythmic drone, the music never lulls or soothes, but engages the listener to play close attention in order not to miss any sonic event that takes place. Around 7:00 or so Guitar enters the picture, double-tracked both sides with heavy Fuzz and sustain, RP keeping the thing on the edge of feedback with an effective, very slow vibrato. The BassGuitar (Didier Batard) and Drums (Francois Auger) rise out of this mix into a slow 4, Mellotron in the back, still asserting it's presence in the mix. Pinhas has never gotten credit for his fine use of Mellotron in his music, always creating deft textures from a most difficult to play instrument!. As the piece finds equilibrium, the whole affair (as is characteristic of much of RP's stuff) is intense and unrelenting, Guitar tearing things down, sharp as a Knife! The ARP is at the root of the sound and almost "reappears" as the band track is faded back into the drone structure, and are taken to a fade after some short melodic statements over the drone/Filtered Noise towards the track's end! Breathtaking stuff, and at 30:22" one of the longest of RP's work. I could have used 20" more but I'm not complaining!
As RP was compiling material for the solo LP he was also working on tracks with the expanded lineup, resulting in "UN REVE SANS CONSEQUENCE SPECIALE" ("A Dream Without Reason"), recorded March to June 1976. A milestone in Heldon's history, this was the first of the band's LP's to be released in the United States by "INNER CITY RECORDS", a well respected "Jazz" label with an excellent roster of European and American Jazz Musicians!
The disc opens with blazing multitracked Guitars setting the vibe in "MARIE VIRGINIE C". Almost immediately sequences from the Moog and ARP open up, a platform on which those gorgeous guitars peel, and EMS filtersweeps float in and out! The direction set, and thick Sequenced Moog Bass and intense Drumming by Francois Auger open the piece to melodic improvisation from both Pinhas' guitar and the deft Synthesizer/keyboard work of Patrick Gauthier. Pinhas is flying over the top, and brings the tune crashing to a halt with serious decreshendi.
"ELEPHANTA" is yet another attempt at modifying percussion sounds with synthesizer, but misses the mark again! However, Auger's playing shows a lot more beef here than drummers in Pinhas' previous attempts at this combination. "PERSECTIVE IV TER MUCO", the next track, was originally not included on the original LP, but is an excerpt from a 1978 concert at "Le Palace" in Paris. (Other parts of this date have appeared, most noticeably on the 1985 LP "Retrospective"...See part 2).
This is truly great stuff. Every element that Pinhas uses to create this music is played to perfection. Blazing Guitar, intense sequencer, and the usual first rate pallet of what seems to be a blending of EMS, ARP, and Moog synthesizers! However, the track fades much too quickly. The listener is left in the middle wishing for the rest. I cannot understand why this entire show was never issued as even this short bit is streets ahead of what was happening in Electronic rock music at that point!
"MVC II" features the integration of lines of sequencer blended with BassGuitar and Auger showing a more subdued Drum feel here than anywhere else on this CD. Pinhas slides in various melodic fragments on Synth and forgoes the Guitaring here.
"TOWARDS THE REDLINE" opens with blasts of Sequencer, and some deep layers of Synthesizer, really thunderous Drums and BassGuitar by Guest Janik Top (my personal favorite of all the MAGMA Bassists!). Guitars join in and begin to work to a strong Rockout riff, RP just blasting away magnificently, and all stretch the music as if playing it live, the sound made richer by employing overdub Guitar/Synthesizer tracks. "MARIE ET VIRGINIE COMP" is another Live track from the 1978 Palace show and another great example of Pinhas' innovative Electronic music genius! Again, this entire show needs be released as the playing is marvelous, the recording flawless, and the musicians attuned to one another! RP blows away all comers with his ripping chainsaw Guitarstuff, and Keyboardist Gauthier (another MAGMA alumni) holds down both bottom and middle with his brilliant post-fusion approach under the drum polyrhythms.
This is one fantastic release, enhanced by a sonic clarity unknown to both the Cobra and Inner City vinyl recordings. The music is still completely revolutionary 20 years after this release and the inclusion of the live tracks is a great reward, although all the decent HELDON shows from this period need be evaluated and ISSUED! One even gets a nice picture of RP playing what looks to be a Travis Bean Guitar in the booklet photo.