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25 April 2017

Heldon - 'IV' (Aural Explorer)

Apparently this isn't a proper release of the fourth Heldon album, but some sort of compilation, containing most of the fourth album but some other stuff. I've never noticed before since it's the only Heldon record I've ever listened to -- but why is that? This stuff is great, I want more! 'Chief Electronic Wizard' Richard Pinhas established a style of minimal electronic music that has been unbelievably influential, though quite singular for its time, so it sounds like a lot of things from recent years, except it birthed a lot of it. This slowly builds up a suite of songs called 'Perspective', with a weird interlude at the end of side 1 (which sounds like guitar-based post-rock twenty years early) that Pinhas neither wrote nor played on. But it's his band - the looming face photographed on the back cover is his, as if there was any doubt whose band this is. He's credited with electronics and guitar, though the guitar isn't that recognisable until the third track ('Perspective III'), where it roars and threatens to keep rupturing the vinyl, despite being pretty buried by the pulsing synth rhythm. In other places, things are more placid; 'Perspective I' could be something released on Kranky in the late 90s by a band like Tomorrowland or Labradford, and the synths are where it gets really crazy. 'Perspective IV' is the most wild, a precursor to all the 'ecstatic drone' stuff that came out of places like Leeds in the late 90s/early 00s. And what does this record make me feel like? Like bits of my brain are burning, and there's a wonder about my place in this world, suggesting that natural, pastoral beauty can find a new life through technology. The cover art is pretty fucking scary, like something you might see on a Voivod album cover, and directly inject this into the "science fiction" realm (as well as reish label Aural Explorer's typeface, which is so retro-cool it feels like it came out of modern day Portland). But I don't want to dwell on this easy sci-fi vibe - it's important to take music like this and make it your own, freeing oneself from the easy tendencies to associate it with soundtracks and other cultural offerings. Pinhas was a pioneering figure and never succumbed to easy New Age sounds or dance beats; this is electroacoustic music, truly, though it doesn't sound anything like AMM, or Cluster, or even other French weirdness like Mahogany Brain or Red Noise. I don't pay much attention to contemporary followers of the Heldon sound, but maybe I should; there's a whole soundworld that I must admit I am undeveloped in, as a listener.

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