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Richard Pinhas Featuring Merbow and Wolf Eyes - Metal/Crystal (2010)

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By Pico

Even if you're into experimental music you might not have heard of Richard Pinhas, but he's kind of a big deal in his native France. This guitarist led the art-rock band Hedron in the mid 70s, during which time they made seven albums, and Pinhas went on to record under his own name, at first sporadically, but more frequently in the last 12 years or so. Within the realm of electronic rock, his influence has been worldwide as his works of the 70s and 80s anticipated both techno and industrial music, and even the Heldon tracks get sampled these days. Like Robert Fripp, Pinhas has been one of the innovators in guitar-generated electronics, such as mixing in a delayed audio signal to create material. Extremely abrasive and extremely ambient all at once, Pinhas uses Frippotronics often as a launching point to the outer reaches of what's sonically possible. The results can sometimes be breathtaking.

After all these years, Pinhas is still refining his art; his last album was co-headlined with the king of Japanese noise music Merzbow. Keio Line (2008) was a collision of Pinhas' measured, textured washes of sounds with Merzbow's ongoing violent assault on the entire idea of music.

For Metal/Crystal, out since September 28, Pinhas reaches across the ocean to bring in the experimental industrial rock group from Detriot, Wolf Eyes. He reached across another ocean to once again tap the talents of Merzbow. Both acts contributed electronics (and in the case of Wolf Eyes, “diverse instruments," too) for half of the tracks, making this record partially a tri-continent affair. Bassist Didier Batard, drummer Antoine Paganotti and mini-Moog player Patrick Gauthier are carried over from Pinhas' last solo album Metatron (2006), and son Duncan Pinhas and Jerome Schmidt are added to provide yet more electronics. With only six tracks sprawled out over two discs, Metal/Crystal's compositions are fully-realized undertakings, and with no defined song structures, oozes along at an organic progression with no discreet phases, even in the 28-minute epics (of which there's three of them).

These half dozen cuts fall into one of three variations: the intricately layered, majestic metal-inflected drones of Pinhas' guitar with various electronics piled on to create a monolithic, dense sonic washes ("Paranoia (Iridium)," “Legend"); the prior strategy, but with drums added to provide a rhythm ("Bi-Polarity (Gold),," Depression (Loukoum)," “Schizophrenia (Silver)"); and a flat out atonal noise-fest ("Hysteria (Palladium)") laid on a crackling lava bed of static. “Hysteria" is nearly half an hour of industrial noise that subtly ebbs and flows like lunar tides, and this is where Merzbow's frontal assaults becomes most apparent. “Bi-Polarity" puts Batard's four note bass riff and Paganotti's drums in front of Pinhas' catatonic crush of loops guitars, creating machine ambience with rhythm.

Even with the assistance of Wolf Eyes and Merzbow, Pinhas keeps his experimental music more engaging than Eno-esque ambience and less ear piercing than Otomo Yoshihide, or for that matter, Merzbow. It's a balance that strikes perfectly to my ears.Metal/Crystal is long and often challenging, but ultimately, exhilarating.

Metal/Crystal is supplied by Cuneiform Records. Visit Mr. Pinhas' website here.

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