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Richard Pinhas - Metal/Crystal

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Artist: Richard Pinhas

Album: Metal/Crystal

Label: Cuneiform

Review date: Nov. 16, 2010

Richard Pinhas has said that Metal/Crystal was recorded at a trying time, describing the 24 months during which the album was recorded as the “two worst years of my life.” Those of us on the other side of the speakers aren’t privy to the conditions or catalysts of Pinhas’ unhappiness, but if track titles like “Depression (Loukoum),” “Paranoia (Iridium),” and “Bi-Polarity (Gold)” are any indication, Pinhas was battling some formidable demons (and perhaps cultivating an interest in chemistry simultaneously). The resulting music on the two-disc Metal/Crystal isn’t as dark as one might expect, but any album featuring a sizable contribution from Wolf Eyes probably won’t be heavy on the sunshine, no matter its circumstances.

Recording Metal/Crystal connected Pinhas with collaborators old and new(ish), combined in mix-and-match ensembles behind PInhas’ guitars and electronics. The album finds the erstwhile Heldon helmsman surrounding himself with former bandmates Dider Batard and Patrick Gauthier, his son Duncan, and more recent acquaintances Merzbow and Wolf Eyes. Pinhas and Merzbow released Keio Line in 2008, and he first made sweet music with Wolf Eyes back in 2007, though this is their first time committing their partnership to spinning disc. The variance in Pinhas’ consorts makes for some diversity in results, but anyone who’s followed Pinhas even casually since his days in Heldon knows that he’s not one for similitude, anyway.

Metal/Crystal is Pinhas’ creation; he’s the album’s primary songwriter and the man at the rudder throughout. Pinhas puts himself in the spotlight at times, as in the unceasing soloing that soars above “Bi-Polarity (Gold)” and “Schizophrenia (Silver),” but he’s no glutton of the glory, contributing rather anonymously to the cosmic junkyard flow of “Hysteria (Palladium).” The showiness of Pinhas’ wild ride over “Bi-Polarity (Gold)” can be a bit much; combine it with Batard’s cheesy bass tone, and you’ve got the makings of the album’s biggest high energy downer. And while Pinhas isn’t done shredding indiscriminately, Metal/Crystal spends much of the rest of its time in more interesting waters. There seems little connection between the album’s track titles and their sounds. “Paranoia (Iridium)” is one of the album’s most pacific oceans of sound, noisy, but gently so, and “Depression (Loukoum)” is unexpectedly bright. Another surprise is the contributions of Merzbow and Wolf Eyes, which can be so sequestered to the back of the mix as to feel incidental. Some sonic signatures eke out, but its odd to hear this usually cacophonous bunch play backing roles.

Pinhas closes the album with “Legend,” an ambient solo excursion that settles the mood of the album considerably. With Wolf Eyes and Merzbow out of the mix, it’s missing the gristle and grit that buffet most of its predecessors. Still, if there’s a cathartic angle to Metal/Crystal, perhaps its fitting that Pinhas finishes things off on his own. The album is, after all, unquestionably his, and while much of the attention paid to Metal/Crystal will be regarding those with whom he plays, Richard Pinhas remains ever at the music’s core.

By Adam Strohm

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