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Electronic Guerilla / "It's Always Rock and Roll"

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Album Review

Between 1974 and 1982, Frenchman Richard Pinhas recorded at least twelve LPs either under the Heldon name or his own, alternating between guitars and keyboards himself and accompanied by a variety of associates on guitars, drums and analog synthesizers. This double CD reissue includes Heldon's very first release, Electronique Guerrilla, and their third, It's Always Rock 'n' Roll (itself a double LP originally). These releases are sometimes referred to as Heldon I and Heldon III (Heldon II, otherwise known as Allez Teia, was recorded earlier in 1975). In spite of the rather aggressive album titles, these early recordings are mellow to the point of ambient, and inscrutably (or perversely), there's very little music in the entire program which would be considered rock & roll by any stretch of the imagination. (Very unobtrusive drums appear only on several of the later tracks on the Rock 'n' Roll reissue.) Most musical biographies of Heldon/Pinhas speak of the Eno/Fripp influence, and indeed, Pinhas encouraged the connection in early interviews by referring to the two English musicians in terms bordering on hero worship. But Pinhas is too modest. Much of the better-known electronic trance music that Pinhas and Heldon seem to be imitating, e.g., early Tangerine Dream, Soft Machine, Fripp and Eno, etc., actually comes after these early Heldon recordings — or is occurring at roughly the same time. Aside from Fripp/Eno's No Pussyfooting, only the first edition of Fripp's King Crimson band could be considered as an obvious influence, but Pinhas doesn't use vocalists, and seldom demonstrates any delusions of prog-rock grandeur on these releases. If Pinhas is paying homage to Fripp on these recordings, then he is also extending Fripp as well, with the wailing sustain of Pinhas' heavily processed guitar gliding over the top of a number of looped and sequenced synthesizer patterns to good effect. By later standards, the electronic equipment used by Heldon is almost laughably antique, and the concepts may also seem simple and predictable to a more sophisticated audience. Nonetheless, there is a purity and conviction to this music, and a dark, slightly sinister element perhaps best exemplified in the long "Dr. Bloodmoney," a title inspired by the great sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick. Like Dick, Pinhas has a talent for messing with your head, and combines overlapping patterns in such a way that time itself sometimes seems suspended.

Biography

Formed: 1974

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

Led by guitarist Richard Pinhas, the French group Heldon released seven groundbreaking albums, melding electronic and rock forms, from 1974 to 1978. Pinhas also recorded six albums under his own name. Pinhas was heavily influenced by Robert Fripp; this shows in his guitar playing, and in the titles of several of his compositions. While early LPs sometimes evoked the sound of Fripp and Eno, Heldon evolved in its own direction. The release of Heldon IV: Agneta Nilsson saw the group heading toward a...
Full Bio
Electronic Guerilla / "It's Always Rock and Roll", Heldon
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