All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

435

Richard Pinhas / Merzbow: Keio Line

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count


Following up on Metatron (Cuneiform, 2007), widely considered his finest record to date, experimental guitarist Richard Pinhas shifts direction slightly with Keio Line, a collaboration with the uncompromising Merzbow, originator of Japanese noise music. It's an album of ambient soundscapes that prove noise can indeed be beautiful, and that it's possible to dispense with conventional constructs of rhythm, melody and harmony yet still create something both musical and profound.



Pinhas' reference point has always been King Crimson co-founder Robert Fripp, and there are points during the six pieces that make up Keio Line's two discs where he's clearly channeling Fripp's collaborations with Brian Eno, including No Pussyfooting (DGMLive, 1973) and Evening Star (DGMLive, 1975). But Pinhas' largely harmonically static but often still melody-driven guitar layers, emerging out of Merzbow's throbbing, hypnotic electronics on the 26-minute "Shibuya AKS," still sound like guitars, albeit heavily processed. With the concept of Frippertronics—primitive looping created by linking together two Revox reel-to-reel tape recorders—the starting point for the two guitarists' life-long sonic explorations, it's remarkable to see the divergent paths each has taken, with Pinhas' own flavor of guitar-as-orchestra electronic processing and looping, called Metatronics; a more guitar-centric approach as opposed to Fripp's Soundscapes, which utilizes sampling to emulate a more diverse sonic landscape.



While the idea that noise can be beautiful may be difficult to grasp—and there are parts of Keio Line that are undeniably jagged, angular and challenging to the ear—it's still quite extraordinary just how appealing it is. Pinhas and Merzbow find ways to create form that may be less than clear when compared to orthodoxy, but is present nevertheless. There's also an element of interaction akin to groups like Norway's Supersilent, with Merzbow and Pinhas responding to each other, often with great subtlety, even greater unpredictability and consistently empathic results. As these extended and completely improvised pieces (the shortest is eight minutes, the rest are in excess of sixteen) evolve, the two sometimes alternate positions of dominance, but more often than not, share the landscape with a mix of looped guitars, sustained melodies and washes of sound that are generally industrial in origin, but are just as often softened into textures that pulse with a persistent rhythm, like a visceral heartbeat.



On an album where texture is an equal partner to the spares use of conventional musical markers, the mix is a third critical aspect, and the way that Pinhas and engineers Laurent Peyron and Duncan Pinhas have shaped the music is nothing short of cinematic. Hypnotic, lush, and at times dark and menacing but elsewhere soothing and tranquil, Keio Line's greater reliance on abstraction makes it a more challenging listen than Metatron, but as an album that signals the beginning of a new musical relationship, it's a powerful harbinger of even greater things to come.



Visit Richard Pinhas and Merzbow on the web.


Track Listing: CD1: Tokyo Electric Guerilla; Ikebukuro: Tout le Monde Descend!; Shibuya AKS. CD2: Merzdon/Helzdow Kills Animal Killers; Chaos Line; Fuck the Power (and Fuck Global Players).

Personnel: Merzbow: EMS Synthi A and all noises; Richard Pinhas: guitar and loop system.

Title: Keio Line | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read The Gravity Project CD/LP/Track Review
The Gravity Project
by Gareth Thompson
Published: October 23, 2018
Read Experiments on Human Subjects CD/LP/Track Review
Experiments on Human Subjects
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 23, 2018
Read Street Scene CD/LP/Track Review
Street Scene
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: October 23, 2018
Read In Common CD/LP/Track Review
In Common
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 23, 2018
Read Jazz In Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden CD/LP/Track Review
Jazz In Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden
by Chris May
Published: October 22, 2018
Read Remember Love CD/LP/Track Review
Remember Love
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 22, 2018
Read "Hawthorne" CD/LP/Track Review Hawthorne
by Karl Ackermann
Published: September 9, 2018
Read "Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32" CD/LP/Track Review Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32
by Don Phipps
Published: December 13, 2017
Read "Closer To Home" CD/LP/Track Review Closer To Home
by Geannine Reid
Published: June 20, 2018
Read "Surface of Inscription" CD/LP/Track Review Surface of Inscription
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 21, 2017
Read "Of Light and Shadows" CD/LP/Track Review Of Light and Shadows
by Phillip Woolever
Published: December 9, 2017
Read "Moksha" CD/LP/Track Review Moksha
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 28, 2018