Wednesday, December 29, 2010


After hitting an absolute career high (in my opinion) with 2008's collaboration with Merzbow, "Keio Line," it makes sense that Richard Pinhas would continue to work more in the agitated crystalline drones that characterized that album. "Keio Line" was an instance of the rarest collaboration, wherein the work of both artists becomes so blurred that individual recognition is rendered an impossibility as well as an irrelevancy. That Pinhas was able to spurn Merzbow to such new levels, transforming his normal molten bolts of scalding noise into gorgeous droplets of purified liquid hum, is a testament to the man's compositional vision. Small surprise too then that Merzbow returns on the good majority of "Metal/Crystal"; slightly more surprising is the participation of noise rock poster boys Wolf Eyes, presumably to chunk things up a little bit in case things got a little too soft (don't worry-they don't.)
To come in to this album with any sort of presumptions was actually very unfair of me. The only thing i really thought was that there'd be some great spaced out Frippertronics style guitar playing, as Pinhas has always delivered. Once i saw the players involved i expected a little bit more of a physical, visceral approach; I'm pleased to say that Pinhas has turned in another epic piece of work, a churning ultra dense sea of tones and eruptions that owe as much to the frigid churchscapes of Fripp's solo work as they do the shock and violence start/stop tactics of Wolf Eyes' recorded proliferations. Throw in some Hendrix-on-Pluto style psychedelic guitar explorations for good measure and you'll be getting a grasp on what this set is all about.
"Metal/Crystal" is spread across two discs, with each hour having its own feel and shape. Disc One is easily the more accessible of the two, the calmer and more grounded compositions finding home here. Opener "Bi-Polarity (Gold)" immediately immerses you in a thick sonic soup with a full band onslaught that allows Pinhas to absolutely shred his guitar for 15 ripping minutes, a six-string flight to the outer stars amidst a spinning fluidity of finger-numbing note flurries and kosmiche head-spacing. It's a fucking journey, easily, and one of the most enjoyably laid back pysch jams i've heard in a few years. No one goes over the top but everyone's reaching for the stratosphere.
This could have been an EP boasting that one track and i would have been way satisified but there's two more tracks that follow, both monsters in their own right. "Paranoia (Iridium)" is a 15 minute ride through guitars and electronics, far more jarring, arctic, rough and clinical than the organic rock assault that came before. Here synths and feedback congeal into a rocky, knotted desert of endless frigidity, creating an intense feeling of agitation that could easily spill over into the track's title. Much like in real life, "Paranoia" gives way to "Depression (Loukoum)", the disc's hulking final track and the first of three collaborations with Merzbow and Wolf Eyes. It's an imposing and aggravating piece, a sputtering hash of elecrto-goop that slowly builds itself into a crushing torrent of spaced out loop disease. Merzbow's hand is felt most heavily here, showcasing the jittery keyboard echoes his more recent pieces (especially collaborations) have dwelled on. It takes a while for everything to get moving but once it does there's no letting go til the disc closes itself out on a wave of burbles and brambles. Were Wolf Eyes even in the room on this one? I don't know and i really don't give a shit.
Disc Two is where all the evil's hiding. This is the "noise" set, the holocaust style auditory assault as filtered through the eyes of a King Crimson-obsessed French guitar god. "Hysteria (Palladium)" and "Schizophrenia (Silver)" comprise one near hour long slag through the murk, a dense pit of roaring electronic howl that barely approaches anything other than a mess of horror driven soundscreams. Merzbow and Wolf Eyes both rise to the fore here, washing themselves in Pinhas' guitar drones and coming out dirtier than when they started. "Hysteria" is the noisier, more scathing track of the two but both are aptly titled pieces, painting an evocative picture of inner anxiety manifesting itself as psychic fractures, a rapid and exponential torrent of troubles pouring forth from the tremors of modern existence. As though knowing that 57 minutes of that sort of punishment creates a serious feeling of distress, Pinhas tacks on a lovely seven minute solo suite to close out the record, a chilling but glacially melodic soundscape that helps massage out a few of the knots the first two hours just worked up in your head. It's a welcome respite and a nice, drifting end to such a perilous traversal of space.
Pinhas is working in exciting territory here, dragging the bloated majesty of prog rock into a new era of freeform sound and open ended improv and collaboration. He's doing both noise and psychedelia an incredible service with records like this, showing the true versatility and breadth that both genres can generate when dropped in a fertile enough headspace. Great stuff for anyone into AMT, King Crimson, Fripp and the like.

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