Richard Pinhas recorded seven influential albums as the leader of French space-rock pioneers Heldon in the 70s, with a further five solo records before his six-year break from music in 1982. Since returning to the form in the 90s he has been prolific, collaborating with such luminaries as Merzbow, Yoshida Tatsuya, Oren Ambarchi, Barry Cleveland, and Wolf Eyes.
"Changes in my life really influenced this record," Richard Pinhas tells of his new album Reverse. He speaks with good humor of its serious beginnings. "The wife of a friend of mine offered to read my Tarot cards. I'd never done it before and jokingly I agreed, because I was curious. And I had the worst reading possible. I don't believe in it - I am very materialist, not financially but in my philosophy - so it was very strange that in the year that followed I lost my two parents, broke up with my girlfriend, lost my flat, and moved to Nantes. So the album was done in this confusion, in this chaotic state of having lost all these things."
Reverse's dark experimental noise and long repetitive tracks have an intimidating first impression. But listening to the whole 50 minutes leaves one feeling purified. Pinhas even says this album "fixed" and "resurrected" him. "The original title was '@Last', because it was going to be my last album. But as I got better, I said, 'well, we'll reverse'", he laughs. "It was a healing process for me to make this album. To get rid of all the negativity that occupied my brain. But that is all behind me now.
The main process of the album production was one of construction, of Pinhas and Oren Ambarchi (guitars, dronz) forming the skeleton. After the initial sessions in Paris they threw out everything except their own parts and then started searching for "the right parts. Not a drummer, but the drummer, not a bass guitarist, but the bass guitarist." Enlisting the talents of Arthur Narcy (drums), Florian Tatar (bass) along with Masami Akita (analog synths, recorded in Tokyo), son Duncan Nilson-Pinhas (digital synths), and William Winant (percussion, recorded in Oakland, CA, USA), Pinhas comments "there is a great line-up on this record."
Remarkably well-read on a variety of subjects, and with a Ph.D in Philosophy from the Sorbonne, Pinhas has a keen interest in Kabbalah. Here too on Reverse, the songs, and fantastic cover art by Yann LeGendre, reflect this. 'Ketter' is an unknowable realm and the music reflects this. We catch traces of elements traversing the spectrum while the whole retains its own mystery. Pinhas' immediately recognizable tone is tempered by Narcy's unique drumming style, building the piece according at his own pace. And 'Nefesh' is the first level of the soul. The track's percolating sounds depicting such a pneumatic birth. "All the important things in my life inspire me, whether it be Nietzsche, Jimi Hendrix, or Kabbalah, they're all there every day." 'End' reflects the 'reverse' of the album title as sounds double back in on themselves whilst Narcy, frantic on the cymbals, pounds the drums themselves with military precision. And album closer 'V2' brings to mind both Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow and David Bowie, Pinhas being a big fan of both. Its music sounding like the aftermath of an enormous futuristic electrical malfunction still lingering over a vast cityscape.
Pinhas does seem to have reversed whatever negativity came his way at the album's beginnings and the future looks bright. October 2016 saw a successful tour of America with sold-out shows in New York, Houston, and Austin ("that was incredible, it was my first time playing in the South too.") And Reverse is his first album for the Bureau B label. "Six months ago, I had my cards read again and all the cards were the best cards possible."