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Antelast Aug Stone , June 2nd, 2022 08:47

Richard Pinhas prepares to bow out with an album of pounding drums and phrygian lead guitar lines, finds Aug Stone

Sporting one of the coolest record sleeves of all-time, Richard Pinhas’ latest offering is essential. His continual exploration of interior landscapes seem to have caused them to expand to enormous proportions, as if relentlessly probing such terrain only succeeds in making it more cavernous. It’s always edge-of-the-seat surprises as to what we’ll find illuminated within their darkness. And it sounds cool as fuck.

Pinhas has been threatening for years now that each new release might be his final outing (the working title for 2017’s Reverse was ‘@ Last’) and the implication here with Antelast is no different. There is only one further release planned, another collaboration with Merzbow. But at 70 years-old, the guitarist is still at the top of his game. Few artists conjure up the fortitude involved in facing such inner struggles.

Each of the five tracks on Antelast are simply given a number, which makes sense. There’s so much going on that summing them up with any sort of title would be an impossible task. ‘AnteLast One’ is the longest track on the record, clocking in at fouteen minutes and twenty seconds, whilst remaining a juggernaut every step of the way. The sounds are impressive. At six minutes in, an out-of-nowhere guitar part could easily be mistaken for trapped human screams emanating from a great depth. Florian Tatard’s bass from just before the eight minute mark is almost funk. Almost. It’s too captured-beast-frantically-attacking-the-walls-of-its-cage to anchor anybody on the dancefloor. But of course drummer Arthur Narcy is laying it down. And into the twelfth minute Pinhas lets forth some pinpoint laser volleys of kaleidoscopic light, just to add further tangential dimensions to the chaotic swirl.

Track two pulls back into a tighter focal point. Beginning with a pulsating chordal rhythm from the guitar, with some harmonics and single notes over the top, while Narcy rumbles the drums underneath. At 1:16 a heavily distorted lead line announces itself seconds before flying into wild Phrygian territory. The piece then wastes no time in building itself back into the full-on. We’re dealing with an entirely different world to explore than the previous track, and what is particularly interesting is the vigorous vehicle in which we’re blasting through it, i.e. the way these rhythms momentarily interlock with each other as they propel the music forward.

‘Antelast Three’ opens with Pinhas’ signature single-note extremely long delays. Narcy quickly kicks in a pulse and it soon gets very rock. It’s still spacey too, of course. And freaking awesome as it takes its time over the eleven-plus minutes, introducing and building on synth motifs amidst the hotbed of soloing.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, being so far along on this voyage, ‘Antelast Four’ is the strangest of the bunch. A relentless electronic rhythmic figure insists itself right through as guitars and drums swoop and dance around it, the entities constantly switching roles of hunted and hunter. The fifth and final track begins as a pleasing, almost mellifluous, coda to all that has come before. After a minute, however, a rapid mid-frequency grinding and unyielding drum kit pounding do their part to disrupt this impression and reinforce how perilous the journey has been. Although we hope to continue to hear much more from Pinhas in the years to come, if this does prove be the last Heldon release, it will be a fitting crowning achievement.