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Richard Pinhas - East West CD (album) cover


Richard Pinhas

Progressive Electronic

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3 stars It can be tempting to see Pinhas' East/West as an important record in the career of the French musician, as he stopped the activities of his band Heldon to concentrate on his solo work. Moreover, this album was published in 1980, a symbolic year, the start of the Eighties. East West offers a wide range of musical styles : Houston 69 is a roaring industrial rock led by the vocoded vocals of Norman Spinrad, able to frighten some punks or metalheads. A contrario, several tracks belong to the ambient style (especially The Whale Dance). To my opinion, West Side, co-written with Eastern Europe electro-pop pionneer O.G.I. (does anyone know what he became?), could have been a hit-single : an energetic rhythm with an enjoyable melody and vocals which manage to inspire the will to shout WEST SIDE! with singer Dominique E.

On the other hand, one could argue that the times of exploration in electronic music were past : in other words, this record is good, but not essential, since it lacks the sense of innovation that Pinhas proved with Heldon or his first solo albums. In fact, East West appears as a good introduction for a beginner to the 70's electronic music.

Report this review (#184565)
Posted Friday, October 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
3 stars Often nick-named the 'French Fripp', Guitarist/Electronic whizz Richard Pinhas decided to release some solo work alongside his band work. East/West is the 4th solo release of his, and again he summons the help of his old Heldon cohorts Didier Batard, Georges Grunblatt, Francois Auger and Patrick Gauthier. I'm not convinced that Pinhas has conquered any new ground here, but the album is quite enjoyable. Track 1 - 'Houston 69', Pinhas relies on Batard, Auger and Gauthier, with processed vocals from Norman Spinrad. The track hits you in the face with a barrage of electronic sounds and sequencers backed with a heavy rhythm, the Guitars are Frippian, and the overall feel is quite dramatic. Next up, RP creates a total re- working of a Bowie composition, 'Sense Of Doubt', fully re-interpreted and un-recognisable from the sensational original with a more ambient/programmed electronic styling. 'Kyoto Number 3' is along the lines of what Tangerine Dream were doing during that time (or were about to do...) with more Fripp-like Guitars and sequenced synths. It can't be helped that Fripp and Pinhas go hand-in-hand when it comes to guitar style. 'La Ville Sans Nom' features Georges Grunblatt on a Polymoog, and is fully along the lines of Fripp/Eno works, with a slow sequence and sustained guitar backdrop with some excellent Pinhas soloing. 'Ruitor' finishes the first side, another ambient piece that's very Eno-esque. Nothing original, nor offensive. The second half of the record has something far removed from anything by Heldon or what was on side 1 - 'West Side' features vocals from a Dominique E. and has more in common with Human League than Prog. Not my favourite tune here, to be honest. It's back to Fripp/Eno territory for the lovely extended piece 'Beautiful May'. This track stars Patrick Gauthier on Polymoog and PPG Synth. 'The Whale Dance' is a short ambient track, and the album rounds off with 'Houston 69 Part 2' - featuring Heldon members again, but this time around sounding more up-tempo and faster paced than the first part. In conclusion, this is a good Prog Electronic album of 3 stars, but Pinhas has done much more exciting things previously.
Report this review (#187401)
Posted Thursday, October 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars For his last album of the 1970s, guitarist / provocateur Richard Pinhas incited a kinder, gentler form of musical dissent, just in time to exploit the dumbed-down expectations of a more accessible decade. It's not exactly techno-pop (although the song "West Side" comes uncomfortably close), but the album certainly represented a conscious effort to simplify the once radical manifesto of his erstwhile band HELDON.

Nine brief tracks (actually less: one was needlessly repeated) were squeezed into the album's 38-total minutes, with most of the cuts arranged in the radio-friendly four-minute range, including a DAVID BOWIE cover ("Sense of Doubt", from his "Heroes" album), and at least one misguided stab at the singles market. Needless to say, it was a major change of pace for an artist who only six years earlier had released an album appropriately titled "Électronique Guérilla".

A saving grace is the lack of digital instrumentation. Sampling technology would homogenize the music industry in the 1980s, but here the analog synths still retained their distinct character, and the textured rhythms even more so. "Sense of Doubt" carries its shambling beat in what sounds like a kitchen broom snagging on cheap linoleum; "Paris: Beautiful May" has a liquid castanet accent underneath its lilting synth melody and Fripp-like guitar sustains. (All the tracks, by the way, are identified geographically: New York, Kyoto, Paris and so forth. The Bowie song is linked to London, instead of the more obvious Berlin.)

And then there's "Houston 69", the only selection to feature an actual drummer: old comrade François Auger. But was the repetition of the track at the end of the album a makeshift bid for artificial closure, or compensation for the overall shortage of material? Maybe the song was included twice because it's the best thing here by far, with the restless momentum and alarming vocoder-vocals resembling a stripped-down, economically remodeled update of Heldon.

Elsewhere the album is synthetically repetitive, but in a too lazy and mechanical way. This isn't the hypnotic pulse of classic TANGERINE DREAM, although maybe Pinhas was simply dogging the footsteps of his German role models into the brave new commercial world of the 1980s.

Whatever his motivation, there's something a little disturbing about hearing such an outspoken musical agitator poaching on territory previously claimed by the likes of VANGELIS or JEAN MICHEL JARRE. But the lack of any real challenge at least has a silver lining: it's the perfect first step for newcomers to the more seditious discography of Pinhas and Heldon.

Report this review (#876621)
Posted Sunday, December 16, 2012 | Review Permalink

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