ELECTRONIQUE GUÉRRILLA:
A YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO HELDON


"I compose on the guitar and I always think that I play guitar, I don't play synthesizer. But I don't know how you can play synthesizer, it is not an instrument, it is a machine that creates sounds but it is not an instrument for somebody who can play. I mean you can make the chords or scales on the synthetiser but that doesn't mean anything, it's just a medium to create on because you can get fantastic sounds, fantastic velocity, and you can explore a lot of fields."

Richard Pinhas interview with Alan Hardman 1982



Heldon were a French electronic rock group, led by guitar player Richard Pinhas. Heldon was active and releasing albums between 1974 and 1979. I first heard of them through the Wayside catalog in 1981 - the title "Electronic Guérilla" caught my eye and triggered my imagination. My first Heldon (the band) purchase was a sealed cut-out copy of "Un reve sans conséquence spéciale", and it more than lived up to my expectations of what I perceived as electronic at the time (Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle, countless new wave groups using synths and mostly anonymous sci-fi movie mood music) and the menacing sounds of my favorite contemporary rock bands at the time (PIL and Killing Joke who were both using "electronic" or synth flourishes) plus a nod to my earliest heavy-rock fixations (Black Sabbath and every 70s hard rock combo you can think of - sorry), and an aggressively noisy stance that could only be termed "punk". And if that wasn't enough, thematically Heldon also addressed my adolescent science fiction preoccupations (Frank Herbert's "Dune", Philip K. Dick, the comics of Philippe Druillet) and academic pretensions (Nietsche, Pierre Klossowski, Gilles Deleuze)

Richard Pinhas IS Heldon - from the personnel listings on the albums you can gather that Heldon fluctuated from a moog/guitar duo (R.P. plus Georges Grunblatt) on the early material to a monstrous moog/guitar/drums power trio (R.P. plus Francois Auger and Patrick Gauthier) on the later albums, but mostly a Heldon or Pinhas album consists of R.P. plus whoever he recruits to assist him. Simplifying greatly, early Heldon is a mix of Fripp & Eno effected guitar, with occasional delicate Mellotron or acoustic guitar intrusions, and very primitive synth drones with almost no percussion. In those early album photos Richard looks like Jean-Paul Belmondo with an afro, a "punk" philosopher with a cigarette eternally dangling from his sneering lips. Beginning with 1976's "Agnetta Nilsson", a strong rythmic drum foundation appears. The side-long track on that LP sets a pattern that will be followed until the last Heldon LP - short pieces on one side, epic length (usually) side-long piece on the other. It all adds up to some sort of swaggering Synth'n'Roll hybrid of Frippertronics, primal "blues rock" and "fusion" jams (in the spirit of "Red"-era King Crimson and late-period Hendrix) powered by Moog and heavy electric guitar, with utterly bleak and sinister "icy" aural landscapes (partly but not totally due to their home recorded lo-fi origin) far removed from the "Berlin School" of sequencer/synth based electronics prevalent at the time, soundtracks for desolate un-made science fiction movies, with a minimal structure close to the earliest music of Philip Glass.

Richard's touch with the synths was always heavy handed - meaning he let the machines scream and sound like machines - he was always a guitar player first, and was interested in synths purely as inventive noise-makers, not their ability to recreate existing sounds or one-man-band style orchestral arrangements. The synths on all his LP's hiss moan and crackle with a vital alien energy that few other groups have had. Even when things become, shall we say, "ambient", sounds are still assaulting the listener at such a volume that you'll never confuse this with either Eno-derived "ambient" musics, New Age music, or whatever is termed ambient these days.

Heldon's music always seems to be eternallly moving forward, if that makes any sense, as opposed to other electronic practitioners of the time, whose music seemed to "float" in spacy washes of synth and echoed sound. Richard uses these ideas also, but as primarily a guitar player, even his most floating tracks are "jams" where the music seems to be constantly building up to a climax of almost unbearable intensity. The album title "It's always Rock'N'Roll" might say it all.

Heldon's entire output is available on CD domestically (in the US) - if only you could say the same for Kraftwerk or Cluster or Faust. Unlike those other great groups, they rarely get mentioned as pioneers of electronic rock music - something that still puzzles me, and that I attribute to Richard's guitar heroics, which seem more relevant to the Sixties than to the Nineties. Whatever, I hear echoes of their heavy sound in the Köln-Vienna school of new techno (from Kahn + Walker, Air Liquide to the Mego label), which in turns derives from the original Detroit techno pioneers, whose early tracks share a lot of common ground with Richard's naked electronics. Mika Vainio's groups, Aube's vast soundscapes, the new electronic Japanese groups clustered around the Zero Gravity label, the new synth-oriented Merzbow material and many other worthy practioners of electronic music all remind me of Heldon's output. Whether this influence is actual or imagined, is open to argument. Go.

Discographical information by Jerome Schmidt, edited by Jeremy Huylebroeck, complete version available at: http://www.multimania.com/heldon/index.htm

Special thanks to Archie Patterson, Ken Golden and especially Steve Feigenbaum for making Heldon's music sound so great in his brief Wayside Catalog description back in the early (and for me, musically grim) eighties.

All albums reissued on CD through Spalax and Cuneiiform. All albums discussed are available individually (with some bonus material) through Spalax in France. Spalax released the sprawling double LP "It's always Rock and Roll" as two separate CDs. Cuneiiform coupled "Electronique Guérilla" and "It's always Rock and Roll" onto a double CD set. Other than that the US releases are pretty much the same as the Spalax reissues - with perhaps slightly better printing on the booklets.

HELDON "Electronique Guérilla"
1974

First issue: Disjuncta 0001 & Disjuncta 12/13
Reissues: Cobra 37019 (1978)
CD issue Spalax 14239 (France) & Cuneiform Rune 51/52 (with "It's always Rock & Roll" in a 2CD set)
Richard Pinhas: AKS synth, 1957 Gibson Les Paul guitar
Alain Renaud: guitar (3)
George Grunblatt: VCS3 synth (4)
Patrick Gauthier: piano and VCS3 synth (4)
Coco Roussel: drums (4)
Pierrot Roussel: guitar bass (4)
Gilles Deleuze: voice (4)
1/ Zind (2: 18)
2/ Back to Heldon (8: 31)
3/ Northernland Lady (6:57)
4/ Ouais Marchais mieux qu'en 68 (Le voyageur) (4: 22)
5/ Circulus Vitiosus (8: 43)
6/ Ballade pour Puig Antich (révolutionnaire assassiné en Espagne) (2: 19)

Harsh and lo-fi with a lively electric veneer that makes it sound as alien today as it probably did back in 1974. And, get this, Gilles fuckin' Deleuze makes a vocal appearance on track 4. "Baby Steps", in execution, although conceptually, everything that tipyfies a Heldon release is already here, from the Fripp/Hendrix-y guitar, to the minimal synth squiggles, albeit in more basic form than later efforts. "Zind", the brief opening track, is an apt beginning to Heldon's recorded career with its loud and simple pulsing mystery. Sound-wise I find this to be better than "Rhizosphere" or Heldon 3 - however he recorded it, Richard managed to capture the hum and buzz of his music machines at their peak. The electric sound on the last bit of "Back to Heldon" is so beautiful it makes me want to cry. "Northernland Lady" is a delicate guitar approximation of Frippertronics, not as dense as later efforts mining this same vein, but with a nice garage fuzz presence. Repetitive garage rock (with a proggish/jazzy Crimso interlude in the middle) also best describes the full-band track that features Gilles Deleuze's star-making turn on the mic. Apparently this was the first self-released French Rock LP, and featured a nicely collaged cover with a hand-drawn Heldon logo that was never used again. Back photos feature Richard's most outrageous out of control afro/sideburn combination. Cool. I had this on vinyl long ago - now (at least in the US) you've got to buy it as part of the 2CD "It's only Rock and Roll" reissue. A shame in a way, because it stands alone as a great album on its own merits.

HELDON "Allez Teia"
1975

First issue: Disjuncta 0002
Reissues: ???
CD issue: Spalax 14235 (France) & Cuneiform Rune 37(International)
Richard Pinhas: VCS3 synth, guitars, A.R.P., tapes
George Grunblatt: mellotron, guitars, A.R.P.
Alain Renaud: guitar (2)
Alain Bellaiche: bass (3)
1/ In the wake of King Fripp (6: 36)
2/ Aphanisis (2: 20)
3/ Omar Diop Blondin (7: 20)
4/ Moebius (1: 49)
5/ Fluence: Continuum Mobile / Disjonction inclusive (12: 15)
6/ St Mikael Samstag am abends (6: 18)
7/ Michel Ettori (4: 17)

Perhaps illustrates best their early Crimson/Fripp-and-Eno friendly style. Mellotrons, acoustic guitars and chunky synths lay a minimal pulsing foundation for Richard's burning sustained solos. A very home made affair, hiss-heavy and alive with the crackle and pop of primitive electronics. Basic duo line-up of Richard and George Grunblatt with assists on bass and guitar. "In the Wake of King Fripp", is, as the title would imply, an hommage to the Fripp-man, but sounds actually like a melding of the pastoral Mellotron-acoustic guitar interludes of early Crimson WITH the addition of "Frippertronic" tape swirls, and beautiful droning echoes - melodic, dreamy and very pretty. The monster guitar track here is "Omar Diop Blondin" with some simply stunning fire-spewing licks from Richard - "Frippertronic" in intent, but much more forceful and feedback-breathing ALIVE than Fripp's similar work. I get visions of Manuel Gottsching's "Inventions for Electric Guitar" also - meaning this is tranced out to the maximum - endless waves of speaker rattling-room shaking vibrations emanating from Richard's guitar while Alain Bellaiche provides a simple repetitive bass/guitar foundation. I just can't really describe the number of times this track has physically lifted me up and swatted me against the wall with uncontrolled fury - I hope it does the same for you. The very brief "Moebius" is hopefully an hommage to Jean Giraud - a simple Moebius Strip of cascading loud sound collapsing in on itself. "Fluence" is a two part extended drone, heavy on the mellotrons and echoes of indeterminate origin that piles on the massive gurgling tones as high-pitched sine waves explode all around you - I find it pretty soothing but its actually pretty chaotic and spastic. It sounds positivily cheerful next to "St.Mikael Samstag Am Abends" - a menacing alien sounding thing - very simple, very alive with electricity - the guitar line that emerges lightens the atmosphere a bit but this track remains moody and dark. The final piece, "Michel Ettori", as well as the second, "Aphanisis" are acoustic guitar ditties - nice and romantic, but slightly out of place - "Michel Ettori" might actually be an acoustic take on "Omar Diop Blondin". "Aphanisis" played by Alain Renaud alone, is more beautiful - sad and romantic Spanish flavor with a slightly jazzy mid section.

HELDON "It's always Rock and Roll"
(Also referred to as "Heldon Third")
1975

First issue: Disjuncta 0006/7 (double 33T)
Reissues: ???
CD issue: Spalax 14231 & Spalax 14232 (France); Cuneiform Rune 51/52 (with "Electronique Guérilla" in a 2CD pack)
Richard Pinhas: ARP & VCS3 synthé, guitars, bass, tapes, mellotron
George Grunblatt: mellotron, guitars (2, 7)
Patrick Gauthier: ARP synth (9)
Gilbert Artman: drums (3)
Jean My Truong: drums (9)
Ariel Kalma: indian harmonium (5)
1/ ICS Machnique (4: 11)
2/ Cotes de cachalot   la psylocybine (8: 35)
3/ Méchamment rock (3: 33)
4/ Cocaine Blues (9: 42)
5/ Aurore (18: 13)
6/ Virgin Swedish Blues (7:27)
7/ Ocean Boogi (5: 53)
8/ Zind Destruction (8: 22)
9/ Doctor Bloodmoney (16: 49)

This monstrous and schizophrenic double album is on Masami Akita's all time top ten favorite records list (along with other angbase worthies like Can's "Landed") and it is not too difficult to see why. The guitar tracks on this album are so over the top delayed and distorted they will make your speakers squeal and pop in crackling terror. This is the only Heldon album I never found on vinyl - and it must have been a beauty judging by the delicate drawing on the cover, beautifully reproduced on the US CD reissue. Some of the tracks from it (Virgin Swedish Blues and Psylocybine, I think) were issued on an odd US version of Agnetta Nilsson which I did have. Those tracks are pretty cool too - guitar heavy stuttering drones and shimmering echoes on the order of Allez Teia's "Omar Diop Blondin" with "V.S.B." being quite beautiful. Did I say heavy? Well, those tracks are lightweight next to this LP's "Zind Destruction" - a chaotic and way overloaded blues-rawk effects-drenched channel-hopping nightmare with the recording levels set on "Merzbow" as they always should be. We're talking endless gurgling all-out guitar fuzz on the level of the Stooges' "Little Doll", the first Guru Guru LP and little else recorded before or since. The schizophrenia comes in on the long electronic tracks which are less dense than what one has come to expect from Richard's hand. "Aurore" is a floating one-finger synth drone - very static (even for Heldon) but very tranced out for those so inclined - odd effects disrupt the mood, like weird clicks and whirrs towards the beginning, and a dog barking (now there's something out of place in a Heldon record) towards the end. "Dr. Bloodmoney" is another dry-sounding squiggle-fest. Would sound great on a Zero Gravity label sampler - until the jazzy Moog solos appear, that is. Mostly it sounds like someone is leaning on the reel-to-reel as this is recording. "Ocean Boogi" is a very beautiful and serene guitar track of the Fripp-Eno-Crimson variety, with some nice and slow extended solos from Richard. All in all this feels like a collection of outtakes from Allez Teia and demos for Agnetta Nilsson - sprawling, yes, in the great double album tradition, and more like the fragmented lo-fi double LP's of the eighties-nineties era (Vermonster, Royal Trux, perhaps Sonic Youth's "Daydream Nation", Dead C) than the double albums of the seventies. Still, the tracks "ICS Machnique", "Psylocybine", "Cocaine Blues", "Virgin Swedish Blues", "Ocean Boogi" and "Zind Destruction" would have made for a classic single disc album.

HELDON "Agneta Nilsson"
1976

First issue: Disjuncta Urus Records 00011
Reissues: Aural Explorer AE 5001
CD issue: Spalax 14227 (France) & Cuneiform Rune 60 (International)
Richard Pinhas: mellotron, 1954 Gibson Les Paul guitar, synths (1, 2, 3, 5)
Michel Ettori: guitars and composition (4)
Alain Bellaiche: bass (5)
Gérard Prevost: bass (4)
Patrick Gauthier: minimoog (5)
Philibert Rossi: mellotron (1)
Coco Roussel: drums, percussion (2, 5)
1/ Perspective I (où commence le nihilisme actif)(10: 26)
2/ Perspective II (3: 13)
3/ Perspective III (Baader Meinhof Blues) (10: 48)
4/ Bassong (2: 59)
5/ Perspective IV (21: 45)

Perhaps the darkest and most threatening Heldon LP, housed in a very lovely color cover drawing. Most of Side one consists of the three part "Perspectives". Part one is a slow 10 minute deep and sinister synth and chunky drum machine dirge that sets the tone for the album: a desolate, cold and bleak utterly in-human futuristic soundscape. Part two is a brief exercise in computer bleeps and nearly out of control high pitched sine waves duelling with crashing cymbals. The last part is another 10 minute nightmare epic, this time with a speedy burping synth pattern that keeps getting faster and faster as Richard plays high-pitched distorted guitar in his most over the top deranged signature style. The album side ends with the wistful "Bassong", a bass-led ditty overlayed with some low-key guitar pickings from Michel Ettori, not Richard this time. The 21 minute "Perspectives 4" takes up all of side two - and features a full-on band sound with Coco Roussell handling the drum duties and Alain Bellaiche the bass, plus of course Richard on guitar/everything and Patrick Gauthier on minimoog. This track, needless to say, is somewhat of a monster - not an all out attack, it slowly emerges from a maze of loud bleeps and computer game-like squiggles. Richard's guitar pops out suddenly with an air-guitar worthy riff, as heroic (in a gtr-hero mode) as anything he's ever come up with. "T-Rex" I say. The rhythm that emerges is a rolling, fusion-esque, nearly funky gait over which Patrick soloes with some nifty Minimoog moves. The track ends as the regular drum beats disappear into a synth pattern (similar to that of "Perspectives 3") over which cymbals and later free-form drums crash and burn culminating in a sudden and loud metallic clang where, in the vinyl version, the violence of the music seemed to fling the stylus off the record.

HELDON "Un reve sans conséquence spéciale"
1976

First issue: Cobra COB 3072
Reissues: Inner City 1021
CD issue: Spalax 14234 (France) & Cuneiform Rune 65 (International)
Richard Pinhas: guitar, Moog B et III, EMS, tapes
Francois Auger: drums, percussion
Janick Top: bass, fracello (CD track 4)
Didier Batard: bass (CD track 3)
Patrick Gauthier: Moog (1)
Actual track sequence on original LP:
1/ Marie Virginie C. (11: 39)
2/ Elephanta (8: 27)
3/ MVC II (6: 13)
4/ Toward the red line (15: 15)

The most "industrial" and harsh of Heldon's output - this is mostly very loud guitar and percussion jams - the percussion is the focus on this LP, and it sounds like a bunch of scrap metal being thrown around violently - hence the "industrial" feel as in "Leichenscrei"-era SPK, Test Department, Einsturzende Neubauten, Coil, and many others. "Marie Virginie", the nearly 12 minute long album opener is a seething, angry-sounding stormer that eventually works up to a nice head-bobbing galloping pace as the drums kick in at the halfway mark - chaotic synths, and channel-hopping junk percussion otherwise dominate this track. Francois Auger's drums (as well as the junk-bashing) are especially powerful and LOUD on this entire album. The Auger-composed "Elephanta" in fact is a gigantic cymbal and god-knows-what percussion track, with multitracked sounds of ringing echoed and effected metals and the drums hidden back in the mix - sounds like a freaked-out post-apocalyptic gamelan - the rhythms never coalesce into something recognizable and thus sound very alien and cryptic. Timeless stuff - it sounded out of this world in 1982 - it probably sounded out of this world in 1976 - and it definitely sounds just as odd and compelling today. "MVC II" is a slowed down and therefore much more sinister variation of "Marie Virginie" - sounds like doomy electronic marching music - complete with distant cymbal crashes and spiralling sine waves. The drums are played at a plodding but relentless pace. Album ender is the swirling "Toward the red line" which is mostly dominated by a maze of synth bleeps, squiggles and patterns, with feedback guitar slightly muffled in the mix, and the drums subtly played in the background - very abstract and almost floating although it is not a quiet track by any means - the endless synth patterns going in and out of phase get quite disorienting and dense. The track does end quietly - everything fades out until the only sounds are a couple of swooshy synth notes. The CD offers two bonus tracks: the brief, fusion-esque and lightweight "Perspective 4ter MUCO", and the much heavier live "Marie Virginie et Virginie Comp" - which is everything you could hope for in a live version of the speedy "Marie Virginie" theme. Which means it fucking kicks ass with its repetitive synth-rock fury.

RICHARD PINHAS "Rhizosphere"
1977

First issue: Cobra COB 37005
Reissues: Aural explorer AE 5002
CD issue Spalax 14237 (France) & Cuneiform Rune 61 (International)
Richard Pinhas: Roland synthétiseur et Travis Bean guitars, Moog 55, ARP 2600, traitement des voice.
Francois Auger: drums (5)
Bernard Paganotti: bass (6 - 10)
Clement Bailly: drums (6 - 10)
Patrick Gauthier: Minimoog (6 - 10)
1/ Rhizosphere Sequent (4: 50)
2/ A piece for Duncan (5: 41)
3/ Claire P. (4: 47)
4/ Trapeze / Interference (6: 48)
5/ Rhizosphere (17: 51)

The first Pinhas solo album, with a beautiful and grotesque color drawing on the album sleeve. The first four tracks are exclusively synth-based and feature Richard alone on Moog and Arp hardware. Heavy stuff with a little more variation than the "Chronolyse" pieces, and portions reminiscent of the bonus track on the Iceland CD. The 17 minute title track features some good active drum fills from Francois Auger, but the synths sound distant and oddly flanged - definitely not as alive as on the presumably more lo-fi "Electronique Guérilla". Richard feels this is some of his best early solo work - it's good, yes, but this track seems to be a variation on the theme later explored to much better effect (and better recorded) in "Stand By". Tracks 6 through 10 on this CD are bonus live tracks from 1982, making this reissue an essential purchase. Sound quality on these is ocasionally a bit thin, especially on the synths, with little of the thunderous presence of the studio versions (compare the beginning of "Belfast" for example). But any recording featuring the monstrous bass presence of Bernard Paganotti is better than most, and he is in fine form here. The 15 minute take on the "The Western Wail" theme is a pretty fine indicator of what an extraordinary jamming unit Richard could command around himself. The final live piece, an "Iceland" variant, has perhaps the lowest sound fidelity, but the hiss adds a little mystery and industrial atmosphere.

RICHARD PINHAS "Chronolyse"
1978

First issue: Cobra COB 37.015
Reissues: ???issue: Spalax (France) & Cuneiform Rune 30 (International)
Richard Pinhas: guitar, mellotron, ARP.
Francois Auger: drums (8)
Didier Batard: bass (8)
1/ Variations sur le thème de Bene Gesserit (Tracks 1 through 7)
8/ Paul Atreides

liner notes say:
"All titles written by R.P. and dedicated to all S.F. freaks cutted at"
Which I interpret as "dedicated to science fiction fans ridiculed by others" (?)
At 52 minutes long this is possibly Richard's longest single album release. Tracks 1 through 8 are minimal (and I mean minimal) synth patterns played out in endless sequences and phase-games, with a Steve Reich/Phillip Glass feel in structure, but due to R.P.'s fat and harsh synth sounds given a totally naked and uncompromising "industrial" lo-fi edge. The black and white collage cover, with those now quaint "archaic" computer fonts also give this an industrial feel. Composition titles are taken from Frank Herbert's Dune, which always led me to believe this was part of Richard's contribution to the never-filmed Dune movie Alejandro Jodorowsky was planning. The first seven tracks are "Variations sur le thème de Bene Gesserit" and feature very subtle differences from track to track - mostly in the speed of the live Moog blasts from Richard's able hands. Very heavy on clicks and hums as the SOUND of the mighty Moog becomes the focus of each piece. Track 8, "Duncan Idaho" is slightly (but only slightly) different, slower and mellower, closer in feel to "Greenland" on the "Iceland" LP. And then comes the last track, side two, actually, the 30 minute "Paul Atreides", with Heldon regulars Francois Auger and Didier Batard manning the percussion and bass. Perhaps the best of Richard's side long jams - hiss-heavy and mysterious, the drum-bass-guitar parts ooze out of a languid mass of bubbling and groaning synths and noisy endless drones. Like a giant futuristic steam engine slowly heating up as it gains speed. When this jam gets rolling it simply pummels everything in sight with its mid-tempo hypnotic drum beat in the machine-like precision of Francois Auger's hands. Over this rock-solid beat, Richard works in some slow burning multi-tracked (and multi-speed?) guitar and waves of Moog wheezes and Mellotron, while Didier provides some powerful and fuzzy bass work. It all dissolves into a long (about 10 minutes) ending of massive tranced out waves of atmospheric synths and gasping electric swirls. All in all, a bravura performance, and one of my favorite extended listens of the pre-CD era, because for half an hour you could forget about changing or flipping the record.

HELDON "Interface"
1978

First issue: Cobra COB 37013
Reissues: ???
CD issue: Spalax 14290 (France) & Cuneiform Rune 43 (International)
Richard Pinhas: Moog III & B, guitar, electronics
Francois Auger: drums, synthétiser, composition (4)
Didier Batard: bass (4)
Patrick Gauthier: Minimoog, composition (3) , Moog bass (except 2)
Actual track sequence on original LP:
1/ Les soucoupes volantes vertes (2: 28)
2/ Jet Girl: in New York or Paris, equivalent / in south Bronx (9: 53)
3/ Bal-a-fou (7: 25)
4/ Le fils des soucoupes volantes vertes (1: 56)
5/ Interface (19: 02)

Yet another epic by the "power-trio" line-up of Heldon. Interesting to note that even with the addition of two live segments (of the title track) this is still shorter than the "Chronlyse" LP. Wow. Inside a beautifully "cool" cover (very seventies in its own way) are some of Heldon's most intricate heavy mechanized fusion jams - not as harsh as "Un reve sans conséquence spéciale" or as slick as "Stand By", this is the most perfectly balanced Heldon release. Tracks manage to be quite technically "fusion-like" in their structure, while still remaining in Heldon's sinister futuristic realm of loud machine noises and icy atmosphere. The two part 9 minute "Jet Girl" is just the coolest thing imaginable: part one is a regular synth pattern over which endless acid-damaged guitar leads play-off Auger's free-ish drumming. Part two sees everything slowing down to a creepy crawl, putting me in a spooky Throbbing Gristle-with-a-guitar-player frame of mind - a manic distorted guitar extravaganza. Tracks one, three and five (basically every track with the words "Soucoupes Volantes" in the title) are all interconnected percussion based interludes - the best of which ("Le Fils de Soucoupes Volantes (Vertes)") fades away after a too-short couple of minutes, just as the frantic lead guitar is acquiring a nice burning glow - nice. The title track is 19 minutes of flanged metallic percussion and long overdriven guitar licks. The track begins with a slowly building percussion thing banging away in a steady rhythm - this track has some of the same bang-on-a-trash-can sounds found on "Un reve sans conséquence spéciale" but they are much further back in the mix - percussive sounding synths and real drums dominate here. The rhythm on this track really sneaks up on you - the repetitive beat achieves a pretty speedy and hypnotic pace by the 10 minute mark - those synth farts just kill me. It all ends with an ironic Chuck Berry through Marc Bolan blues rawk riff - killer.

HELDON "Stand By"
1979

First issue: Egg 900578
Reissues: ???
CD issue: Spalax 14233 (France) & Cuneiform Rune 53 (International)
Richard Pinhas: Moog, Polymoog, vocoder, guitars, sequencer
Francois Auger: drums, composition (1 parts 3 & 6)
Didier Batard: bass
Patrick Gauthier: Minimoog, piano, polymoog, keys, composition (2)
Klaus Blasquiz: voice (1, 2)
1/ Bolero:
Bolero proprement dit
Recognition
Repetition
Rote Armee Fraktion
Production
Distribution
Deterrioration
2/ Une drole de journée
3/ Stand By

The title track is a guitar led synthetic-fusion jam, less chaotic than those side-long pieces from "Interface" and "Chronolyse", and very structured for all its power and fury, with a slow ending that owes as much to Tony Iommi as it does Robert Fripp. Heavy stuff. Klaus Basquiz contributes some very unwelcome scat-singing to "Un Drole de Journée", which is otherwise a short keyboard-drum groove that reminds me of the airy sounds of Hatfield and the North more than anything. It ends however, with an endlessly looping synth and drum sequence that could only come from Heldon and company. "Bolero", the 21 minute centerpiece is the star here - a dramatic epic, which echoes Ravel's "Bolero" in the opening drum part as the synths squeal and moan readying to blast off into space. A sequencer and drum exploration ensues, not too far removed from Klaus Schulze's "Moondawn" type material, but with Richards distinct heavy hand giving the electronics (and the drums) a harsh and loud touch. The track then shifts gear repeatedly (six parts are listed) through rich landscapes of oozing and languid synth squeals, relentless percussion from Francois Auger (he gets credit for "Kolossal Percussive" on the sleeve), and of course, Richard's burning guitar leads. The ending is anti-climactic, not totally floating-spacy, but definitely light compared to the stormy beginnning. The cover pushes the sci-fi angle, with green "lasers" and a guy in a silver fireproof-looking outfit.

RICHARD PINHAS "IceLand"
1980

First issue: Polydor 2393254
Reissues: ???
CD issue: Spalax 14236 (France) & Cuneiform Rune 44 (International)
Richard Pinhas: guitars and electronics
Francois Auger: drums (8)
Jean Philippe Goude: Minimoog (8)
1/ IceLand Part 1 (1: 07)
2/ IceLand Part 2 (9: 38)
3/ The last king of Thule (2: 26)
4/ IceLand Part 3 (7: 46)
5/ Indicatif radio (1: 04)
6/ The last king of Thule Part 2 (5: 30)
7/ Short transition (0: 35)
8/ Greenland (8: 54)

Perhaps my favorite of R.P.'s solo records, this is a desolate LP whose harsh and loud usage of synths deserves to have been more widely imitated. Difficult not to use the word "icy" to describe the sonics that permeate this album - the synths cry out with a monumental churning force that imagines the slow, unstoppable movement of glaciers or icebergs. This might also be R.P.'s second most repetitive disc (next to Chronolyse) - the repetition adds to the power and claustrophobia as tracks hammer on into the 8 to 9 minute range. The track "IceLand part 2" has a rythmic loop that includes a sound that ressembles the sonar bleep you hear in submarine movies. "IceLand part 3" is much more atmospheric and spookier, and mostly features giant droning walls of Moog behind which float mysterious echoed "breathing" sounds. The two part "The last Kings of Thule" uses strangled and distorted guitar over a great "industrial" synth pattern - sounds like Richard jamming over a tape of Coil's "Solar Lodge" or SPK's "Another Dark Age". The album ends with the peaceful "Greenland", where the same basic "harsh" synth sounds are assembled in a gentler way with the addition of a beautiful drifting melody. The bonus track here, the 22 minute "Wintermusic" is a worthy addition to this LP. It consists of a solo live performance by Richard on Polymoog and it is a very tranquil beautiful thing - endless waves of Moog vibrations and peaceful ambience, with a very earthy and minimal feel as we've come to expect from him. No solos, or excessive space squiggles, just droning sheets of sound, very much in the spirit of "Iceand part 2" but much less rythmic and much more "ambient" than most recorded Heldon output. Very good indeed.

RICHARD PINHAS "East West"
1980

First issue: CBS 84787
Reissues: ???
CD issue: Spalax (France) & Cuneiform Rune 31 (International)
Richard Pinhas: guitars, E-Mu electronics, PPG computer, Polymoog, Moog 55
Georges Grunblatt: Polymoog (4, 5)
Francois Auger: drums (1, 9)
Didier Batard: bass (1, 9)
Patrick Gauthier: Polymoog (1, 7, 9)
Norman Spinrad: voice and composition (1, 9)
Dominique E.: voice(6)
Steve Shehan: percussion (3)
1/ Houston 69: "the crash landing" (5: 41)
2/ London: "sense of doubt" (2: 48)
3/ Kyoto: "Kyoto number 3" (2: 55)
4/ XXXXX: "la ville sans nom" (4: 05)
5/ Home: "Ruitor" (4: 00)
6/ New York: "West side" (3: 39)
7/ Paris: "beautiful May" (7: 17)
8/ Keflavik: "the whale dance" (3: 04)
9/ Houston 69: "Houston 69" (4: 31)

East West - my first introduction to R.P.'s music. At the time I bought this I was heavily into French science fiction comics - especially the immortal Moebius, and the whole Metal Hurlant stable which I found through a set of used copies of that magazine's classic early issues from the mid-seventies. Philippe Druillet, cover artist for this LP was one of the many stars of that mid-seventies French clique. Druillet's drawing on this is one of his tamer works - which fits the album I suppose, a compression of the Heldon style into nearly "pop" morsels of sound. Compared to the massive work of the previous decade, this might sound lightweight - but there was enough heavy sci-fi atmosphere on this to hook me into further exploring the Pinhas back catalogue. And this LP does include some of R.P.'s most lush synthetic melodies, on the order of Kraftwerk's "Man-Machine" perhaps, but fuller and more romantic. The two part "Houston 69", featuring effected vocals from Norman Spinrad, is a galloping full-on throbbing guitar jam with a tingly synth sequence pulling everything forward amidst Spinrad's robotic (and deranged) exclamations. Those typically massive Francois Auger drums are unstoppable. Other highlights include the crunchy slow motion rhythms on "London: Sense of Doubt", and the endless and subtly hypnotic "Home: Ruitor". The only mis-step is "New York: West Side", where the foppish Bowie-through-Gary Numan vocals offend my brutish sensibilities. For the most part "Electronic Rock" describes this best, in that it is basic loud and extroverted rock music with a focus on synthetic sound - like a non-Velvets induced La Dusseldorf perhaps, if that makes any sense.

RICHARD PINHAS "L'Ethique"
1982

First issue: Pulse 006
Reissues: ???
CD issue: Spalax14238 (France) & Cuneiform Rune 36 (International)
Richard Pinhas: synthétisers, guitars
Georges Grunblatt: Minimoog (8)
Francois Auger: drums (10)
Clément Bailly: drums (2, 4, 6, 7)
Bernard Paganotti: bass (2, 4, 6)
Patrick Gauthier: Minimoog (2, 6, 10)
Jean Philippe Goude: Minimoog, percussion (1, 5, 7)
Gilles Deleuze: voice (1, 7)
1/ L'Ethique Part 1 (6: 21)
2/ Dedicated to K.C. (6: 57)
3/ Melodic simple transition (4: 14)
4/ Belfast (5: 00)
5/ L'Ethique Part 2 (4: 08)
6/ The Western Wail Part 1 (7: 46)
7/ L'Ethique Part 3 (4: 48)
8/ The Western Wail Part 2 (4: 31)
9/ L'Ethique Part 4 (1: 46)

Opener is a melodic and danceable synth-and-guitar tune with an extended jet engine roar ending - a recurring theme on this LP. All the synth tracks on this LP have a "hissing" vitality that is quite nice even if the rythms and sequences are basically up-beat and not at all the lo-fi industrial heavyness of Heldon's past. Three tracks ("Dedicated to K.C.", "Belfast" and "The Western Wail part 1" on this feature a full band sound. Track two, the perhaps too obviously titled "Dedicated to K.C." is a sped-up "Red" styled stormer - riffs surmount riffs here, culminating in a tremendous cascade of guitar licks, and to say that it is an over the top hommage to the finest moments of instrumental Crimson would be an understatement. "Belfast" is a sinister funeral march with an ominous bass and drums groove, over which repetitive synth blasts duel with Richard's scratchy guitar. "The Western Wail part 1" is a very fast-moving synth and drums sequence - very soundtrack friendly in a car-chase sort of way. Bonus track "Southbound" is one of those claustrophobic "fusion" jams the power trio line-up of Heldon tosses off so well, with a heavy bass and drum foundation over which Richard wails. The drums on this live track have a very repetitive beat which is not jazzy, nor bluesy - it mostly sounds "industrial" to me, in that it is machine like. Don't get the wrong idea though - no robotic Kraftwerk kling-klangs here.

Selected Richard Pinhas quotes 1980-1994
(full text available at the Heldon home page)


Interview with Cyrille Amistani 1994:

"When I recorded my album in 1973, I really didn't know the German groups. The only unconscious influence I had was Fripp & Eno, before they released their first record. Theirs and mine were released in an interval of one month....The only real influence was the Fripp & Eno tapes we heard before King Crimson's concerts. My conscious roots are rather based on Philip Glass's work, at the time of Music For Twelve Parts - a type of music I've always appreciated a lot, even now."
"Techno is fucking annoying but I admit it's completely impersonal. For those who listen to it as well as for those who compose it or those who earn money on it. Also for the sounds, which musicians steal from each other. It's the concept of total anonymity, and I find this interesting from a theoretical point of view."

Interview with Cyrille Amistani 1980:

"One of the most important things is that I am a rock musician. I don't think that nowadays any other music apart from rock is important. The last big creator in music was I think Messaien. But his music hasn't changed since 40 and 50s. And I think that if anyone is to take the place of contemorary music, it should be Fripp and Eno."

Interview with Alan Hardman 1982:

"You know, to understand any music you must devote yourself to listening to it. When I discovered Wagner I listened to each opera thirty times, one after the other, it takes weeks and weeks. When I discovered Stockhausen ten years ago, it was the first record I discovered 'Hymnen' and he takes some real instruments, big orchestral playing, and he makes noise on it. I took the record and spent three days and nights just trying to understand what he is saying. And the more you listen, the more you realise that music and life are completely connected. When you are composing you are actually re-composing something that has been working of all your life."

Interview in Audion Magazine 1992:

"I think "Heldon Third" and "Allez-Teia" did not stand time... I should not have made those albums in the first place. But on the whole I guess I contributed to electronic music. "Rhizosphere" for example was the first combination of heavy live percussion and electronics. Drummer Francois Auger did some amazing work on that album. I'm quite content with "IceLand", "East/West" and "L'Ethique", those are my best albums."



Heldon offitial website: www.multimania.com/heldon/index.htm