Richard Pinhas & Merzbow – Rhizome [CD + DVD]


Over the decades I have come to a point where, as far as music is concerned, anything excessively derivative or too directly influenced by an original is virtually ignored. Still, there are intangibles that make me appreciate at least a fraction of Richard Pinhas’ efforts beneath the sonic insignia of Robert Fripp, whose Frippertronics (already an imitation to start with, ask Terry Riley) he replicates via a Roland guitar feeding a loop system.

At least two albums released by Heldon’s mastermind on this very label (specifically, Event And Repetitions and Metatron) are outstanding. However, 2008’s Keio Line — Pinhas’ first outing with a laptop-brandishing Masami Akita/Merzbow — was not among them, the intrigue generated by the combination of such different schools of sound-making notwithstanding. The subsequent Metal/Crystal, also featuring Wolf Eyes, remains unheard at the time of this writing. For a further contextualization of the matter, be aware that yours truly does not belong to the circle of those who spent a fortune on the legendary 50-CD set Merzbox; at any rate, this reviewer’s respect for the Japanese’s attitude is authentic, some of his early products lying in my archive way before the official explosion of the “Merzbow cult”.

That said, Rhizome — a live recording from 2010 in Washington — warrants several degrees of rewarding auricular reaction. The interrelation between Pinhas’ magnetic cascades of distorted layers and Akita’s persistent throbs and unevenly digitized interferences is not without troubles, but that friction secures a level of physical/cerebral fitness for an eager listener. In “Rhizome 2” the atmosphere is altered by a series of robust deep tones — similar to an overdriven bass bowing under superior forces — underlined by the guitarist with an impressive texture of fuzzy hues and concealed melodies irradiating feedback. A captivating moment of tension that fully justifies our concentration, followed by a functional cross of synthetic miasmas and swelling electronic chaos in the subsequent movement.

In these episodes the couple shows the fine quality of the respective ears; the frequency ranges are selected with noticeable attention to the ensuing magma. The infernal catharsis achieved in the final minutes is also quite exciting, perhaps the set’s overall top. A bonus DVD comprising video excerpts from the same concert (including a tired-looking Pinhas furtively glancing at his wristwatch during the encore) adds another reason for keeping track of where these artists are directed. Beyond any personal philosophy, play loud and be prepared for a trip towards temporary corporeal dislocation; on a second thought, the work done by Pinhas in recent years is definitely more powerful than a lot of what I’ve heard in Fripp’s current Soundscapes projects.


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