French composer, guitarist, and electronics innovator Richard Pinhas, 64, is a terribly overlooked progenitor of abstract rock music. And while he is an unabashed disciple of Robert Fripp, it would be a shame to write him off as a mere imitator. Pinhas took the tools of the era — guitar, effects, monophonic synthesizer, drums — and created a music that almost puts King Crimson in a top of the pops sort of light and makes geographical peers Magma suddenly lend themselves to some sort of synthetic opera.
With Pinhas finally making his first-ever appearance in Detroit with a drummer as Heldon as part of a 35-gig tour this Friday, Oct. 7 at Marble Bar, we present to you our top five Pinhas moments:
Heldon, Interface (Heldon 6) (Cobra)
This was my introduction to Heldon and the world of Richard Pinhas, in the summer of 2010. I'd begun a musical journey with Nate Young (Wolf Eyes proprietor and occasional Pinhas collaborator) with our duo Moon Pool and Dead Band. We were furiously outputting aural experiments and constantly exchanging musical philosophy. He referenced Heldon almost offhandedly and I said, "Wait what's Heldon?" He almost immediately left my house in Mexicantown, walked home to Hubbard Farms, and came back later that evening with this CD. "Let me know what you think." This put almost a weeklong pause on our sonic explorations while Nate gave me time to absorb the genius of RP. I found almost all of the classic works that week on MP3 music blogs (RIP) and have been a googly eared super fanboy ever since. More proggy with borderline Magma-esque jazz fusion tendencies (minus vibrato) and a taste of the proto-metal that was to come on Stand By.
Heldon, Third "It's Always Rock And Roll" (Disjuncta, 1975)
Some (me) might say this is the essential disc of Heldon/Pinhas, and even of all the '70s French progressives. It lends itself almost toward a Berlin school aesthetic at times with its melodic Moog modular sequences and kraut-ish drum and bass minimalism, but consistently maintains a strict French romanticism.
Ose, Adonia (Egg, 1978)
Much like Kraftwerk's first few LPs, this is apparently a source of disdain for Richard and a stain on his discography (but for what I believe is completely opposite reasoning. I once was declared to be "stupid" by the man himself in a Facebook exchange, where I had declared it to be one of my favorite records of all time. It has (gasp!) linear rhythms, consonant melodies, and harmonies and beats you could dance to (in some sort of dystopian cyber rock desert). It is Pinhas' most accessible work; just don't mention to him that you love it.
Richard Pinhas, Chronolyse (Cobra, 1977)
Being a huge fan of records which reference Frank Herbert's epic story Dune, this was a no-brainer when I spotted a copy out West while on tour with Rodriguez. This album hits all the major essential aesthetic points for me sonically, and is another great example of Richard never compromising a seriousness that is pervasive throughout his work, even when faced with a fantastical sort of subject matter. Pinhas is an avid fan of science fiction novels, particularly the work of American outsiders such as Philip K. Dick and Norman Spinrad. I have a sneaking suspicion these speculations inform much of his output.
Heldon, Un Rêve Sans Conséquence Spéciale (A Dream Without Reason) (Cobra, 1976)
Noisy, bombastic, intense, percussive, abstract, uncompromising, relentless, this is not for the light at heart. Well, none of this man's work is, but check the heavy Pierre Klossowski quote that accompanies the edition of this album that made it to the United States under the Inner City label (home to some of the "jazzier" works of Sun Ra):
"If the meaning of all eminent creation is already to break the gregarious practices, which always direct beings towards ends which are exclusively useful to the oppressive reign of mediocrity in the experimental domain: to create is to do violence to what exists, therefore also to the integrity of human beings. Every creation of a new type having to provoke a state of insecurity; creation ceases to be a game in the margin of reality: henceforth, the creator does not reproduce but himself creates reality."
Richard Pinhas performs with Wume and unabashed Heldon disciples Lyrans opening up on Friday, Oct. 7 at Marble Bar; 1501 Holden St., Detroit; 313-338-3674; $10 in advance, $12 day of show.