Composer, electronics innovator and guitarist Richard Pinhas is one of France’s most important experimental musicians and a pivotal figure in the integration of rock music with electronica. He continues to take huge strides forward, confounding expectations and astonishing his listeners, as with his staggering brutal collaboration with master drummer Yoshida Tatsuya (of Ruins) in 2014, Welcome In The Void.
Originally released in 1978, Cuneiform Records have now reissued the debut solo recording from Pinhas, his Moog and analogue electronics masterwork Chronolyse, on high quality vinyl, the first time it has been available in this format in 35 years. This reissue marks the latest in a long line of collaborations between Pinhas and Cuneiform who originally reissued Chronolyse on CD in 1991.
Science Fiction and philosophy had been great influences for Pinhas and with Chronolyse he set out to create a tribute to Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune, this reissue also coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first novel in 1965. Simultaneously to the recording of the Interface album with his band Heldon, Pinhas immersed himself in a highly personal solo project. He had been deeply affected by the Dune novels and wanted to dedicate a full album to the universe contained within. Acquiring a Moog P3 and a new Polymoog to accompany two Revox A700s he had installed in his home studio, Pinhas began recording direct to tape in the first half of 1976.
Pinhas did not want the album to be overly commercialised by linking it too directly to the Dune franchise so chose the name Chronolyse from a work by French science fiction novelist Michel Jeury which dealt with time manipulations. As the title suggests, there is a feeling of passing time that permeates through the bulk of the first side, a suite inspired by the Bene Gesserit, a key social, religious and political force of women in Dune who possess ESP, in seven brief variations. The ticking momentum is evident throughout but each variation is distinct whilst working together as a unified whole, the repetitions building a hallucinatory feel as the synths are worked hard in the minimalist swirl. Tangerine Dream comes to mind and it has to be said that even from the review download this sounds amazing, I can’t imagine what the vinyl would sound like on a decent system.
Side one is completed by the track Duncan Idaho, named after the only character to appear in all six of Herbert’s Dune novels. A companion piece that stands aside from the suite, it reminds me of Vangelis’ early work with a main “melody” line supported by complementary lines and echo above a shifting backdrop.
Side two is made up of the massive slab of sound that is Paul Atreides, named for the “hero” of the first two novels, which at over half an hour dominates the album. This epic moves away from the wholly Moog environment of the previous pieces by including contributions from Heldon’s Didier Batard (drums) and François Auger (bass) as well as Pinhas’ guitar which were added to the original Polymoog track.
As good as the first half is, side two is where the real magic resides if your brain works anything like mine does. After a slow build Paul Atreides becomes a fascinating and dense listen that brings the likes of King Crimson to mind within the fog of Polymoogs and repetitive phasing. Pinhas’ sustained guitar cuts through the austere surroundings beautifully as Mellotron-esque sounds ebb and flow, the more standard rock instrumentation fighting for life – and ultimately losing – amidst a brooding sea of droning synths in a mesmerisingly aggressive power struggle. The touchstone apparitions of Phillip Glass and Terry Riley appear to guide the way but this is all Pinhas’ work and despite all of the heavy sounds and referencing Chronolyse is surprisingly accessible, if a little unsettling.
But does Chronolyse hold up after nearly four decades? The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’ as the repetitive, minimalist tones are as relevant and modernistic as ever. Other electronic classics may sound a little pedestrian or tired these days but Chronolyse remains a fascinating listen and well worth discovering anew if you, like me, were previously unfamiliar with it.
If Pinhas’ work even remotely appeals to you it is worth noting that he appears at Newcastle’s TUSK Festival for two nights this coming weekend, in a trio with Yoshida Tatsuya and Ono Ryoko (Sax Ruins) on 10th October and a duo with Stephen O’Malley on 11th October while 12th October sees the trio playing in London at Corsica Studio.
01. Sur Le Theme De Bene Gesserit I (2:22)
02. Sur Le Theme De Bene Gesserit II (2:16)
03. Sur Le Theme De Bene Gesserit III (1:37)
04. Sur Le Theme De Bene Gesserit IV (1:44)
05. Sur Le Theme De Bene Gesserit V (1:36)
06. Sur Le Theme De Bene Gesserit VI (2:06)
07. Sur Le Theme De Bene Gesserit VII (4:34)
08. Duncan Idaho (6:13)
09. Paul Atreides (30:22)
Total Time – 52:50
Richard Pinhas – Moog, Polymoog, Revox Tape Machines, Guitar (track 9)
Didier Batard – Drums (track 9)
François Auger – Bass (track 9)
Record Label: Cuneiform Records
Catalogue#: RUNE 30
Year Of Release: 2015