November 1992 A4 40 pages
THE RAIN GARDEN - Beyond
photocopy reprint (last 6 copies)
There's always been something different about the synthesizer and experimental rock music from France, a unique outlook and styling that's quite different to the Teutonic cosmic school or the Italian classical style. This French music is almost always recognisable as such, even when it's instrumental, and especially so in the case of the musician in discussion here: Richard Pinhas and his band Heldon, the spearhead of a new genre in music. In their wake came a whole flood of bands: Lard Free, Vertø, Besombes Rizet, Ilitch, Fluence, Hydravion, Pôle, Zed, etc., amongst a huge unfathomable scene.
Richard Pinhas was born in 1951. In the 60's he went to Paris to study philosophy at the Sorbonne, and after winning a degree, and also a PhD on 'the physical aspects of time', he got a job at the same university as a teacher. Thus, amidst an era of student riots and high political feelings, Richard got involved with the burgeoning underground rock scene. The French scene in the late-60's was rife with innovative bands, with people rejecting the popular Anglo-American style in favour of music that had a French identity, bands like Ame Son, Red Noise, Maajun, Semool, Triangle, etc., and many other lesser-knowns flourished. This was also the scene that gave birth to some of the greatest bands in French rock and fusion, Magma, Art Zoyd, and Gong amongst them. In fact Richard Pinhas' first band, Blues Convention, also featured later Magma vocalist Klaus Blasquiz in its ranks. This friendship with Blasquiz led to Richard being involved in an early incarnation of Magma, yet it seemed that he didn't just want to be the guitarist in someone else's band, he had higher ambitions. Thus, eventually disillusioned with the rock world, Richard took a year pause to reflect on what he wanted to do, on notions for a new and different music, to create his own band.
In 1972, with the aid of like-minded friends and explorative musicians, Pinhas and co. established the band Schizo, a quintet with a highly electronic base, and blues-rock leanings, during their brief existence Schizo issued two privately produced singles (both now extremely rare), the second of which was given away to anyone who wanted it for the cost of return postage!
THE BIRTH OF HELDON
I suppose here is as good a place as any to point out that Richard Pinhas is a science-fiction fanatic, not only because the name Heldon was taken from a Norman Spinrad novel, but you will find numerous references to writers like Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert, etc., on his albums, as track titles or dedications. Also the music created embodies the adventurous spirit of a musician fascinated with the scientific and technical.
It seems that Heldon originally came about after gradual disbandment of Schizo, eventually Richard was left alone, a guitarist with a synthesizer and a couple of Revox tape decks. Heldon became a novel band; basically Richard and whoever wanted to work with him!
Released in Richard's own Disjuncta Records (originally in an edition of 1000 copies) the first Heldon album, curiously entitled GUERILLA ELECTRONIQUE, collated a Schizo track together with solo guitar loop and electronic works, and also a track in collaboration with another talented guitarist: Alain Renaud; for a debut LP this was, and still is, quite a remarkable release, featuring a wealth of invention, with much use of guitar effects, tape delay and electronics. Looking back, there are many obvious comparisons with the music of Fripp & Eno, and not surprisingly Richard revered Robert Fripp as the foremost master of the guitar. Yet it is curious to note (quoting Richard himself) that 'Heldon 1 was released in '74 at the same time Muff Winwood released the first Fripp & Eno', and that whilst the music of Fripp & Eno involved long evolutive sound fabrics, the early Heldon sound was more angular and captured in small composed morsels. Heldon music had its own identity.
After initial successful sales, it wasn't long until the release of a second album. ALLEZ-TEIA was basically by the duo of Pinhas and former Schizo synth player Georges Grunblatt (here also playing guitar and mellotron), it contained two dedications to Robert Fripp and was surprisingly more relaxed, featuring much acoustic guitar, a wider variety of synthesizers and much mellotron. Certainly this resulted in a more esoteric release, even closer to the realms of Fripp & Eno at times, especially on the lengthy track Fluence. Also, unusually, ALLEZ-TEIA contains a track without the participation of Richard Pinhas, namely Aphanisis - a duet by Alain Renaud and Georges Grunblatt.
THE RISE AND FALL OF DISJUNCTA
As success grew, it's obvious that the record label would need to expand. First was an exceptional solo by part-time Heldon guitarist Alain Renaud; and then the second album by ZAO, an excellent fusion band formed by ex-members of Magma (of whom two members were later to become involved in Heldon), later there followed an unusual folky album by the Brazilian female multi-instrumentalist Lourival Silvestre and a second LP by Alain Renaud.
Meanwhile with Heldon, the story becomes much more complex. Whilst recording the third Heldon album, a double (a kind of dedication to Soft Machine's momentous THIRD, ...
Article by Alan Freeman
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