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Richard Pinhas: “The Western Wall, Part 2”

From the album: L’Ethique (1982)

Richard Pinhas, the Sorbonne-educated student of philosophical rock star Gilles Deleuze, is best known as the prime mover behind the pioneering instrumental rock band Heldon, featured previously on Acousmata. Pinhas first began releasing records under the name Schizo in 1972. The first Heldon album appeared in 1974, and Pinhas put out his first solo LP in 1977. These projects are all characterized by powerfully evocative instrumental tracks laden with pulsing sequencers and Fripp-esque guitar filigrees. Though heavily influenced by the German Krautrock phenomenon, Pinhas’ music is more dramatic and developmental, and at times approaches the large-scale formal ambitions of progressive rock. Taken together, Pinhas’ albums from the 1970s and early 1980s represent an ambitious attempt to unite the experimental tendencies of rock and electronic music—the guitar and the synthesizer. 

The ensemble Pinhas put together for L’Ethique could be seen as a kind of supergroup of 1970s French avant-rock, featuring three alumni of the legendary “concept band” Magma: Clement Bailly (drums), Patrick Gauthier (synthesizer), and Bernard Paganotti (bass). In “The Western Wall, Part 2,” the group delicately constructs a wall of sound around a single, repeated synthesizer melody, creating a musical mise-en-abyme that summons a mood of epic melancholy.

Played 493 time(s).

September 20, 2012, 9:49am

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Heldon: “Interface (Live at the Palace 1978), Part I” 

From the album Interface (1977)

Founded in 1974 in Paris, Heldon was the brainchild of French guitarist/keyboardist Richard Pinhas.  Pinhas has a remarkable background for a rock musician celebrated as the “father of electronic music in France”:  in the late 60s, before he was known as a musician, he studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he received a PhD under the tutelage of the renowned philosopher Gilles Deleuze.  Deleuze, who was deeply interested in music, would later make a guest appearance reading a text on the track “Ouais Marchais mieux qu’en 68 (Le voyageur)” on Heldon’s 1974 debut album Electronique Guérilla.

After completing his doctorate, Pinhas taught for a year at the Sorbonne before abandoning academia and committing himself to his musical projects.  His primary group, Heldon, released seven albums between 1974 and 1979. From 1976 to 1982, Pinhas made an additional five records under his own name.  His music from this period can be described as a stylistic fusion of the developmental, guitar-oriented progressive-rock tendencies (King Crimson being a major influence) with the centripetal, loop-based aesthetic of early electronica (Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk).  This track is much more representative of the former style, including some impressive guitar noodling by Pinhas.

Beyond the substantial influence of his music, Pinhas took an active hand in the progressive music scene in France, for example producing and distributing the music of Métal Urbain, a pioneering French post-punk outfit.  After a musical hiatus during the 1980s, Pinhas returned to action in the 90s, and in the last 20 years he has collaborated with Peter Frohmader, Pascal Comelade, Scanner, and Merzbow, among others.

Returning to his intellectual roots, in 2001 Pinhas published a book on music and philosophy entitled Les larmes de Nietzsche (Nietzsche’s Tears).  I haven’t read it, but it looks like a fascinating work, touching on such figures as Pierre Boulez, Henri Bergson, Robert Fripp, and—of course—Nietzsche himself and his on-again, off-again composer-idol, Richard Wagner.

Played 109 time(s).

September 13, 2010, 3:35pm

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