Richard Pinhas / Tatsuya Yoshida / Masami Akita [Merzbow] - Process and Reality (September 16, 2016)
Avant-Rock Icons Richard Pinhas, Tatsuya Yoshida and Merzbow Form a
French-Japanese Noise Summit on Process and Reality, a Richly Textured, Politically Charged Soundtrack for the Collapse of Modern Society
Three founding fathers of experimental music join forces to conjure a serenade for a society on the verge of collapse on Process and Reality, an hourlong whirlwind of pessimistic prophecy transformed into a heady monolith of sound. Boundary-stretching guitarist Richard Pinhas, founder of the influential French electronic-rock band Heldon, teams with two icons of the Japanese avant-garde drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, mastermind of warped-prog legends Ruins, and Masami Akita, a.k.a. noise guru Merzbow to summon a brutally honest, politically potent, sonically tumultuous reflection of the last gasps of the industrial age.
Process and Reality, due out September 16, 2016 on Cuneiform Records, marks the first recorded convergence of these three avant-rock giants, though Pinhas has recorded with both Yoshida and Merzbow in the past and all three have toured extensively together in Japan (often joined by the equally iconic guitarist Keiji Haino). The album, recorded in Tokyo during a recent high-profile tour, captures the fevered intensity and violently textured depth of the trio’s collaborative improvisations
Simultaneous with his studies on the guitar, Pinhas earned a PhD in philosophy from the Sorbonne, where he studied with the late French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, and his aggressive, combustible music has always been honed to a keen edge by its philosophical bent. Process and Reality takes its name from an influential 1929 book by English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, which posits reality as a continual process of becoming.
That’s an apt summation of the music made by Pinhas, Yoshida and Akita, which seethes and roils in a constant state of both turbulent flux and visceral realization. The guitarist says of his collaborators, “They explore 100% of their possibility. We have the same kind of spirit.”
That spirit seems to blanch in the face of the modern age. Though he doesn’t regard Process and Reality as the still-to-come third part of his “Devolution Trilogy,” which began with 2014’s Desolation Row and continued with 2014’s Welcome… In the Void, a duo collaboration with Yoshida, Pinhas obviously feels that the music created on the new recording expresses a similarly foreboding worldview. The album arrives in the shadow of a series of tragic terrorist attacks in the guitarist’s native France, in the midst of an unprecedentedly ugly American presidential election, and in the aftermath of the Brexit vote that sent shockwaves across Europe, with no end in sight to the crisis in the Middle East and ensuing refugee crisis.
The global forecast on the album’s 2016 release is riddled with dark clouds, as an overwhelming mood of political turmoil roils the global consciousness.
While many of those world events were still in the future or in a more nascent stage when Process and Reality was recorded, they fulfill Pinhas’ bleak vision of our fates. In what he calls “the Industrial Age Final Times,” the economically distressed Detroit is the “city of the future” and civilization will be transitioning from wars over oil and gas to battles for water, the very stuff of life itself. In his darkly clouded crystal ball, ecological disaster, global terrorism, a sweeping wave of Fascism in Europe and increasing technological reliance all forebode decades of “very bad things happening.”
While those subjects weren’t expressly discussed during the making of the album, Pinhas says they can’t help but have made an impact on it. “A musician is doing what he’s doing when he’s doing it,” he explains. “All your thoughts, everything you do is the result of the historical time where you’re living. The mood is changing and we’re heading toward something very chaotic. The music I’ve been doing over the last several years is trying to be a reflection of this chaos and void that we’re coming to.”
If all of this sounds more like the dystopian vision of a science fiction writer rather than that of a ground-breaking experimental musician, that’s no accident. Pinhas has enjoyed intellectual friendships with a number of science fiction writers tracing back decades, including Michael Moorcock, Philip K. Dick, Norman Spinrad and the late Maurice Dantec, with whom Pinhas formed the project Schizotrope. He sees his own fatalistic premonitions as akin to their writings.
“Normally musicians and writers have a premonition of reality before it happens,” Pinhas explains. “That’s why I’m very involved with science fiction writers. They have an insight or vision of what will become our near future. If you read the books of very good science fiction writers in the ‘70s, they describe the society where we’re living now.”
The outlook embodied by the music on Process and Reality is stunningly pictured in cover art worthy of a cyberpunk novel, rendering an oil tanker as a surrogate for the decaying post-industrial future. It was created by Patrick Jelin, the gifted French designer also responsible for the covers for classic Heldon albums Interface (1977) and Stand By (1979), as well as Pinhas’1979 solo effort Iceland.
Despite the dark context, the very process that the title Process and Reality hints at is one of transforming chaotic reality into a gorgeous, densely layered and richly textured monolith of beauty, one radiant with the breathtaking colors of a purple-tinged sky preceding a storm. The music swells into being on the first track, “TVJ 00 (Intro)” not much for elaborate titles, Pinhas assigns his pieces a letter/number combo a la the Köchel numbers associated with Mozart’s compositions as Pinhas and Akita create a dizzying maelstrom of guitar and electronics noise over Yoshida’s pummeling drum assault, a torrent of layered noise that won’t seem unfamiliar to Merzbow aficionados.
The centerpiece of the album is the 35+ minute second track, “TVJ 33 (Core track),” on which Yoshida establishes a lurching groove under the gradually swelling colors that bloom from Pinhas’ lush guitar blooms and Akita’s insistently buzzing electronics. The sound builds to a glimmering intensity, both punishing and blissful, which the trio maintains for nearly 20 minutes. Finally the barrage disperses, leaving behind rippling echoes of metallic tones occasionally disrupted by blasts of digital noise, unexpectedly revealing the bandmates’ Fripp and Eno influences.
The respite doesn’t last long, however, as a harsh metal-on-metal industrial soundscape overwhelms the calm. “TVJ 66 (Non-Sens)” follows with crushing waves of sound, an aural whirlwind stirred by Merzbow’s piercing gales. The album concludes with the relatively serene “TVJ 77 (Quiet Final),” a stop-start mind-bender that delves into space-rock psychedelics.
Process and Reality arrives well into Richard Pinhas’ fifth decade as a recording artist and constant innovator. Recognized as one of France's major experimental musicians and a pivotal figure in the international development of electronic rock music, Pinhas' stature in France is analogous to Tangerine Dream's in Germany: the father figure of an entire musical movement. Inspired by a wide range of music from classic ‘60s rock to ‘70s jazz fusion and progressive rock, Pinhas recorded seven albums with Heldon between 1974 and 1979 before disbanding the project to focus on his work with a wide range of collaborators.
Throughout his long career he’s constantly evolved, remaining on the bleeding edge of multiple genres, while younger generations continue to catch up and rediscover his work, whether sampling it in new music or simply revealing its profound influence. He’s reissued his early work on Cuneiform as well as releasing a steady stream of new music, while also penning books on philosophy and his mentor, Deleuze.
His collaborators on the album are two of the most revered and influential musicians of the Japanese experimental music scene. Since 1985, Tatsuya Yoshida has led the avant-prog group Ruins, a power duo (usually) with its own invented language and an equally singular sound. Yoshida has also led several other groups, including Zubi Zuva, Koenji Hyakkei and Korekyojinn, and released a number of solo projects.
He spent time as the drummer of the influential prog group YBO2 alongside guitarist KK Null, whom Yoshida currently joins in the latest incarnation of the longrunning noise-rock band Zeni Geva. Yoshida has worked with many of the most prominent figures in the avant-garde, including Fred Frith, John Zorn, Derek Bailey, Bill Laswell, Yoshihide Otomo, Acid Mothers Temple and countless others.
Recording as Merzbow, the prolific Masami Akita has released more than 400 recordings of ear-shattering noise music, becoming one of the foremost icons of the music. He’s previously released three duo albums with Pinhas on Cuneiform: Keio Line, Rhizome, and Paris 2008. Merzbow’s work draws inspiration from a number of divergent streams, including early electronic music, free jazz and fusion, heavy metal and prog, to extra-musical sources including Dada, fetish and BDSM culture, visual arts, Butoh dance and surrealism. In recent decades he’s adhered to a vegan and straight edge lifestyle and been strongly committed to the causes of animal rights and environmentalism.
Process and Reality Track Listing:
1. TVJ 00 (Intro) (3:14)
2. TVJ 33 (Core track) (36:29)
3. TVJ 66 (Non-Sens) (12:10)
4. TVJ 77 (Quiet Final) (10:33)
Tatsuya Yoshida: drums
Masami Akita (Merzbow): noise electronics
Richard Pinhas: guitars & analog synth guitar
All titles composed by Richard Pinhas / Tatsuya Yoshida / Masami Akita.
Recorded at Gok Sound studio, Tokyo, Japan.
Guitar overdubs at Heldon studio, Paris, France.
Mixed by Joe Talia in Melbourne, Australia, December 2015.
Mastered by John Cuniberti.
Graphic design and visual art by Patrick Jelin.
Musician photos by Cedrick Pesque.
STREAM/SHARE: "TVJ 33 (Core Track)" [excerpt]
Cat. #: Rune 432, Format: CD / Digital Download
Genre: Rock / Electronic / Experimental / Noise
Release Date: September 16, 2016