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Heldon - Stand By CD (album) cover




Progressive Electronic

3.92 | 114 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review Nş 183

Heldon is a French band formed in the 70's by the guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Richard Pinhas. He is sometimes called as the 'French Fripp''. The name of the band was taken from the 1972 novel 'The Iron Dream'', by Norman Spinrad. Heldon can be identified with their creator and leader Pinhas. He was a passionate about science fiction novels, a theme that will often recur in his career, and he was also a great passionate of music. Pinhas began by absorbing Jimi Hendrix as an adolescent, leaving that behind at the beginning of the 70's, after having heard what Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock were doing with synthesizers. And it was then that he discovered the duo Fripp and Eno.

It was in 1974 that Heldon released their debut studio album, ''Electronique Guerilla''. The main idea was to rock and roll on electronic machines. Pinhas was, of course, playing electric guitar, but he was also interested on synthesizers, the A.R.P., VCS 3, and Moog. This was the beginning of the 70's. Heldon released some very important studio albums among which a trilogy that started with the sound of 'Un Reve Sans Consequence Speciale'' continued with 'Interface'' and was concluded with 'Stand By''. In total, between 1974 and 1979, seven important albums were released by Heldon.

'Stand By'' is their seventh studio album and was released in 1979. The line up is Richard Pinhas (guitar, Moog, Polymoog, vocoder and electronics), Patrick Gauthier (Mini-Moog, piano, Polymoog and keyboards), François Auger (percussion and Kolossal percussive), Didier Batard (bass), Klaus Blasquiz (voices) and Didier Badez (sequencer).

'Stand By'' was Heldon's last studio release. However, in 1998 it was released an eighth studio album 'Only Chaos Is Real'', with slightly different personnel. Of the traditional line up only Pinhas was present. But, this is an album that cannot be considered belonging to their classic era. It's a strange cross of punk vocals, techno beats and the usual repetitive minimalism. It even doesn't approach at the concept of Heldon. I don't know why Pinhas reformed this band.

'Stand By'' features the classic trio line up with Auger, Gauthier and Pinhas, with some additional assistance from Batard, Badez and the help of Blasquiz of Magma. With 'Stand By'', Heldon truly stands out as a band of the musical experimentalism in the 70's. Heldon successfully blends and incorporates the influential, innovative and original music of their time that expresses the musical freedom and boundary pushing that thrived during those times. You'll hear elements of the 'Berlin school'' electronics (Tangerine Dream), jazz fusion, hard rock chord changes and blistering guitar solos that reference everything from Jimi Hendrix to Robert Fripp in his King Crimson's days. But you'll also can hear something no one else ever gave you, and that is Heldon's own sound. No matter how, but they sound like Heldon.

About the tracks, 'Bolero'' is a good example of what we could play with a guitar and a synthesizer in the 70's. 'Bolero'' is a 22 minute suite based on the classical bolero's formula. 'Bolero'' can be considered, in my humble opinion, as one of the best pieces of electronic music ever released. The expansive 'Bolero'' is a reminiscent of the Berlin school music, but with a real rhythm section and some Blasquiz vocals. Pinhas lays back on the guitar on this release, particularly in the latter stages, wisely serving the compositions even when it means a lesser showcase for his own abilities. This is a track with a bunch of some of my favorite things on prog. 'Une Dr'le De Journ'e'' is the shortest track, but still is a very complex track. Sometimes, if I don't pay attention, I actually think this is something from Vangelis during his 'Heaven and Hell'' album. It plays up the electronic and minimalist elements a bit and has an amusing Magma vocal line not atypical of French progressive rock bands, in general. The title track starts like a great heavy rocker from the early progressive rock bands, in King Crimson's vein. Then the guitar takes over and we get a great jam. Then a little Yes' like interlude, with great drumming of Fran'ois and then the last part goes off into outer space. With track 'Stand By'' Heldon managed to create one of the heaviest songs of the 70's. It's full of metal, futurist synthesizers and drudging base lines that creeps slowly at first and ends up with guitar and hard yet precise drumming.

Conclusion: 'Stand By'' has to be hailed as Heldon's signature work. It contains everything that is good about Heldon. It's Heldon in their mature glory and perhaps no other band was able to toe the line between electronic and progressive rock. Progressive rock drums, bass and guitar blend and merge with bass synthesizer pulses and arpeggios, jazz keyboard solos ride overtop jittery electronic sequences, compositions move from dark moody electronic soundscapes to frantic, pulsing rhythms and then transform into improvisational jams or spacey laid back passages embellished with slithering, smoking guitar solos. This is Heldon at their most experimental and aggressive originality. This is Heldon at their most focused and purely stated. 'Stand By'' is an outstanding document of one of the good things that happened in the 70's. It's compelling and satisfying. Really, this is Heldon at their very best and you owe it to yourself to hear it.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |


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