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Heldon - Électronique Guérilla CD (album) cover




Progressive Electronic

3.54 | 54 ratings

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3 stars Guitarist Richard Pinhas made no secret of his radical politics, and the first album from his new musical collective likewise must have sounded like an act of protest in 1974. To Pinhas, art was both a mirror and a hammer, and in this initial outing he wielded both with sometimes clumsy enthusiasm.

A few of the track titles boldly proclaimed his activism (one namechecked the head of the French Communist Party; another was dedicated to a Spanish anarchist recently murdered by the Franco government). But the music itself was even more rebellious, at least by 1974 standards: primitive electronica with (King) Crimson-colored guitar embellishment. Like Italy's Franco Falsini (main man of the band SENSATIONS' FIX) Pinhas was outspoken in his admiration of ROBERT FRIPP, sometimes to an almost parasitic degree. But his own musical style was actually closer aligned with the Krautrockers of the time, perhaps more so than a Frenchman would care to admit.

Instead of employing his synthesizer like a steroid-injected lead organ, Pinhas and crew used the new equipment more for texture and atmosphere, although here it sounds like they were learning on the job, while the tapes were rolling. Fully half the album shows evidence of overexcited knob twiddling, mostly during the two longer tracks: "Circulus Vitiosus" and the self- titled "Back to Heldon". By comparison, the understated guitars in "Northernland Lady" and "Ballade pour Puig Antich" hide their age remarkably well. Ditto the hypnotic monologue of 'Quais Marchais...etc", the only selection to feature a drummer.

It's safe to say the album isn't as fresh as it used to be, partly because the cybernetic repetition of all those sequencers was already becoming a cliché in 1974. But looking back from our current age of digital conformity there's still plenty to admire here, beyond the now somewhat charming naïveté of the technology itself. Age and distance may have blunted the album's political convictions, but here and elsewhere the music of Heldon anticipated modern trends in ambient drone culture by several decades.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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