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Richard Pinhas and Merzbow - Keio Line

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Artist: Richard Pinhas and Merzbow

Album: Keio Line

Label: Cuneiform

Review date: Nov. 14, 2008


Richard Pinhas and Merzbow - "Merzdon / Heldow Kills Animal Killers" (Keio Line)


This epic double album marks the first meeting on disc between French guitar veteran Richard Pinhas and noise legend Merzbow. Such an encounter could not have happened at a more fortuitous moment, with both artists’ approach to sound and texture blending in what might be called unified autonomy.

The precedents for the collaboration are clear in hindsight. Pinhas’ long-fostered sound, comprising lush drones and textured harmonics, has recently gained a full and deep harshness, as represented on his latest solo album, the equally ambitious double-disc Metatron. Though steeped in tonality, Pinhas’ musical language has long been an exploration of the overtone series, his use of burgeoning technology rendering each sonority a multi-leveled experience. The closest comparison might be Robert Fripp’s solo work, but the timbres Fripp now uses are absolutely conventional compared to the drones, rasps, speech samples and loops on recent Pinhas projects.

Pinhas’ contributions to Keio Line continue the trend. His opening tones on “Tokyo Electric Gorilla” snarl their way swiftly through several octaves. In fact, Pinhas employs something very similar to Frippertronics to create a constantly shifting miasma, a static harmonic structure that pulses and throbs, as pitches swell and ebb across the spectrum. Yet, on “Heldow Kills Animal Killers,” he introduces multicolored whispers of pentatonic drone through which passages of sinewy melody ooze and writhe. He has a way of stratifying layers of textural complexity, some with occasional bursts of vibrato, while maintaining the clarity of the structure as a whole.

In this way, Merzbow’s recent work is completely complementary. He’s been employing similar layers and loops, many of them generating repetitious rhythms from deep inside the timbre. As with Lasse Marhaug’s work with Ken Vandermark’s Territory Bands, Merzbow’s complexes embrace everything from the harshest squeals and deepest rumbles to the tiniest shreds of white noise.

Often, Merzbow and Pinhas alternate textures, each alternating with the other in slow waves. Rather than creating a disconnect, however, the two musician blend timbres so completely that the actual point of contact becomes indistinguishable, as on “Fuck the Power and Fuck Global Players.” Here, the heavily and rhythmically chorused distortion generated by Pinhas’ monolithic guitar loops transitions beautifully, even meditatively, into Merzbow’s rhythms, invoking car alarms and Star Wars phaser-fire by turn.

It is impossible to articulate the experience of epic unfolding that occurs over the longer tracks here, with two lasting almost half an hour. The music moves with glacial authority. Individual moments burst with lightning and electricity. It’s a departure from Cuneiform’s usual fare, but a worthwhile one.

By Marc Medwin

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