Richard Pinhas - East West LP
Label: Bureau B
Bureau B presents a reissue of Richard Pinhas's East West, originally issued in 1980. The fourth solo album by French spacerock mastermind Pinhas, East West was his first and only album to be released by a major label (CBS). Some say it is his most commercial but Pinhas doesn't see it that way. "Signing to CBS was a blessing. It gave me the tools for better production. At that time, some big companies were better and more honest than the so-called underground labels. Besides, I don't see any virtue in remaining underground. You try to do what's best for the music at each moment in your life. Always." reflects Pinhas. Even so, East West contained some surprises for those who were used to Heldon's extended jams or the sparse and moody atmosphere of Iceland (1979). East West's average track length is four minutes, indicating greater accessibility. It also has a David Bowie cover, although Pinhas naturally chose one of his more avant-garde moments, the foreboding "Sense Of Doubt" from Heroes. (1977). Despite having "gone solo", Pinhas remained a serial collaborator. The intense and frantic opener, "Houston 69: The Crash Landing (Part 1)", features his old Heldon colleagues Didier Batard, François Auger, and Patrick Gauthier. The robotic vocals were supplied by writer Norman Spinrad from whose novel, The Iron Dream (1972), Heldon had lifted their name. East West's synth-centric tracks resemble siblings to the groundbreaking work of Kraftwerk. Others, like the dreamy "XXXXX: La Ville Sans Nom" or longest track, "Paris: Beautiful May", showed Pinhas hadn't lost enthusiasm for fusing the revolutionary sound of the synthesizer with his impressive talents as a meditative and expressive guitarist. Certain songs evoke Brian Eno or Tangerine Dream but hold their own distinct flavor, anticipating much later ambient practitioners such as Mountains or Emeralds. Besides the relatively succinct running times, it's "New York: West Side" that takes most responsibility for East West having been categorized as Pinhas' "most commercial" work, another view which its maker defies. "I don't know why people say it's the most structured or commercial," he reflects. "I wanted to do this album in the way I did it. In terms of commerciality, I don't work with those kinds of concepts." East West hardly represents Pinhas' shift from abstract composer to pop artist but offers a sublime showcase for the diversity of Pinhas' powers, all delivered in handy bite-sized chunks.