We take it for granted today, but not too long ago, integrating electronics into a rock setting was something exotic and strange. Before Kraftwerk, and certainly ages before all manner of modern digitally powered pop, hip-hop and experimental music, the only people interested enough in electronics to apply them in anything approaching rock were mad-scientists like Raymond Scott, Bruce Haack and David Vorhaus. These people were as much engineers as they were musicians, and history has granted them more technological props than musical ones. However, as the futuristic daydreams of the 50s and 60s graduated into the wide-eyed discovery by thousands of young, fearless kids in the 70s, the ideal of electronic interaction with guitars and drums seemed less an abstract, distant concept than a viable alternate reality.
One of the earliest bands to exploit this marriage to its fullest potential was the French outfit Heldon, led by guitarist Richard Pinhas. Pinhas was heavily influenced by King Crimson leader Robert Fripp-- particularly his searing, sustained tone, coming on like an intensely focused acid-rock laser beam-- and a love of epic-length compositions. Pinhas was also very much enthralled by the idea of using programmed synthesizers in his work. His first records with Heldon are direct precursors to the industrial clang of bands like Throbbing Gristle, and later, Einstürzende Neubauten and Ministry, in their uses of menacing synth clusters performing seemingly endless patterns of perpetually churning, lysergic fuzz. However, his major impact wasn't felt until he combined his love of King Crimson's avant-progressive dynamics with his fetish for doom-filled, minimalist tech-core. The apexes of this fusion were represented on 1976's Un Reve Sans Consequence Speciale and this album, 1977's Interface.
Pinhas worked with two of the finest musicians of his country on Interface: keyboardist Patrick Gauthier (later of Magma), and powerhouse drummer Francois Auger. With this pair, Pinhas was able to construct massive specimens of metronomic terror while still being able to constantly shift the focus of the sound. In concert, they might stretch five-minute patterns into half-hour death races, never deviating from the pre-ordained settings of an army of sequenced synthesizers. The classic Heldon lineup was like an inhuman mix of Tangerine Dream's otherworldly journeys into space and time and the finely tuned brawn of The Mahavishnu Orchestra, not to mention featuring practically orgasmic guitar solos that would make Makoto Kawabata blush. It was excessive to a fault, but then, any music designed to draw out the darkest demons of an acid trip should've been.
SEALED MINT on Souffle Continu records in stunning Swamp green vinyl