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Electronic Meditation

Electronic Meditation
Thursday April 19th, 2018 with Sean McFee
Heldon

Richard Pinhas (b. 1951) is a French guitarist with a lengthy body of work both under his own name and under the name "Heldon". The first four Heldon lineups feature shifting lineups from track to track with the only constant being Pinhas himself, while the final three albums are more of a "band" affair, coinciding with the beginning of Pinhas' own solo releases (which often also featured other musicians, but seem to have focused on his electronic side as Heldon was starting to become more "rock"). Before Heldon, Pinhas had recorded a couple of singles with the group Schizo, which also included future Heldon member Patrick Gauthier, and future Happy the Man drummer Coco Roussel. The early Heldon albums feature a fair amount of King Crimson influence, with Frippian guitar tones and plenty of Mellotron. There are also some early sequencer experiments and sometimes harsher electronic sounds. There is a bit of a yin-and-yang to these albums, as the first and third tend to be more aggressive and the second and fourth tend to be more laid back, but in truth all four albums contain all of the aspects to varying degrees. The later Heldon albums get more aggressive. The fifth sounds like early industrial music at points, and by the seventh there is a definite Zeuhl/Magma influence. Two decades later there was a new Heldon album, but it's mostly new musicians and I have not heard it. Tonight is a musical survey of Heldon's music from the 70s that hopefully gives an opportunity to hear all aspects of their sound. All of the Heldon 70s albums have been reissued numerous times -- I have the Cuneiform versions so will be playing those.
The first album is entirely Pinhas, with the exception of a track that reinvents one of the Schizo pieces. You can hear some Crim-like guitars, electronics, and sequencing with the VCS3 sequencer.

The second album gives a prominent role to Georges Grunblatt, who gets some writing credits. Both Pinhas and Grunblatt perform on Mellotron and Guitar, with Grunblatt adding an ARP synth and Pinhas his VCS3.
Northernland Lady
Heldon - Électronique Guerilla - Cuneiform
In the Wake of King Fripp
Heldon - Allez Téia - Cuneiform
St. Mikael Samstag Am Abends
Heldon - Allez Téia - Cuneiform
The third album was a double LP, and much of it was a recap of everything Heldon had been to that point, with some space for longer ambient tracks. Doctor Bloodmoney, which closes the album, features some extended sequencing, an ARP solo by Patrick Gauthier, and drumming from Jean-my Truong of Zao, and makes a strong valedictory statement for the first three albums.
Doctor Bloodmoney
Heldon - It's Always Rock And Roll - Cuneiform
The fourth album could be considered a "dark ambient" album at points... the static and ominous nature of Perspective I would be revisited in Pinhas' early solo work.
Perspective I (où comment procède le nihilisme actif)
Heldon - Agneta Nilsson - Cuneiform
Perspective III (Baader-Meinhof Blues)
Heldon - Agneta Nilsson - Cuneiform
The fifth and sixth albums more consistently feature the trio of Pinhas (guitar/electronics/synthesizer), Patrick Gauthier (Minimoog/Moog bass), François Auger (drums). Janick Top of Magma and Didier Batard both show up on bass on some tracks. The fifth album is heavy and industrial and seems somewhat experimental, and the sixth perhaps the successful result of those experiments and an integration of those elements into a more consistent band sound.
Marie Virginie C.
Heldon - Un rêve sans conséquence spéciale - Cuneiform
Interface (excerpt)
Heldon - Interface - Cuneiform
Stand By is a monstrously good album and part of me wanted to just play the whole thing. It contains only three tracks, and the second one is kind of the intermezzo. The title track is a fourteen minute Zeuhl-inspired monster. Klaus Blasquiz of Magma adds vocals to the last two tracks. The second side is entirely taken up by "Bolero", which might get the closest to Berlin school music of anything Heldon did, while still being heavy, dark, and awesome.
Bolero
Heldon - Stand By - Cuneiform
Interactive CKCU