The music of Metal/Crystal is loud and scary. It is not oxymoronic to call Richard Pinhas' creation the noisiest ambient record this year. The guitarist, perhaps the French equivalent to Robert Fripp, has been making music for 30 years, first with the electronic rock band Heldon, then as a solo act, extending ambient music with his guitar processing techniques.
Of late he has been experimenting with the international noise scene, releasing Keio Line (Cuneiform, 2008) with Masami Akita (aka Merzbow). The pair formed a mutual admiration society, whose individual voices shelved in deference to the overall project.
Merzbow is back on Metal/Crystal, joining Pinhas collaborators, son Duncan Pinhas (electronics), Jerome Schmidt (electronics), Antoine Paganotti (drums), Didier Batard (bass), Patrick Gauthier (mini-Moog) and fellow noise artist Wolf Eyes.
Disc one starts off simply enough, with Pinhas' processed guitar landscapes easily digested, with a bit of bass and drums. He paints scenes easily enough, drawing the ear to electronic waves and eerie spaceship silence and metallic hum. Things get really interesting in the midsections of the two discs, when Merzbow and Wolf Eyes apply their craft. The tracks lengthen to nearly 30 minutes apiece, and the intensity of tumult spikes.
From the beat-driven openers, "Hysteria (Palladium)" dispenses with all rhythm, focusing the flow on industrial noise. Pinhas eschews the head-bob for the head scratch. The act of listening evolves into an act of experiencing. Sounds flow and retreat, never really allowing for release. Played at differing volumes, the experience changes. At lower volumes, the ambient nature and subtly of the sound is the effect. At higher volume, the industrial power overwhelms. By the third piece "Schizophrenia (Silver)," Pinhas, Merzbow and Wolf Eyes bring a rhythm section into the mix for an extended jam.
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