Although Welcome in the Void and Tikkun, a Richard Pinhas collaboration with Oren Ambarchi that I’ve also reviewed, were released simultaneously, the latter is a stand-alone project, while Welcome in the Void has been promoted as the second part of Pinhas’ Devolution Trilogy. That’s despite the contribution of Ambarchi to the first part of the Trilogy, Desolation Row (2013), and the fact that the opening track here is very much of a piece with the music on Tikkun.
“Welcome in the Void Part One – Intro” is almost Tikkun redux, except that although Yoshida Tatsuya’s drumming is just as intense here as Ambarchi’s on Tikkun, Tatsuya’s approach is more irruptive and downright percussive than Ambarchi’s. Still, this opening shot is short, a mere four minutes long, and kicks into life only to fade in advance of the larval influx of machine noise which opens “Part Two – Core Trax”, the piece which swallows up the album’s remaining sixty four minutes.
Yoshida Tatsuya is a key figure in Japanese underground music, best known for his part in the bass/drums duo Ruins, later solo as Ruins Alone or Ruins Songs, and as a key member of the groups Koenji Hyakkei and Korekyojinn. On paper, he’s not such an obvious match with Pinhas as is either Ambarchi or any of the other other Noisenics (Mersbow, Marhaug, Wolf Eyes) Pinhas has recruited for other recent recordings. Where Pinhas’ music is longform, constructed from layered skeins of FX and looped and corroded or otherwise processed guitar, Yoshida typically plays in surging, volcanic rumbles or fast, intricate polyrhythms perfectly suited to, say, Korekyojinn’s Hard Rock and Prog Rock Medleys.
As “Core Trax'” initial incoming swell abates, the multiple overlapping strata of Pinhas’ lines emerge with increasing clarity from the sonic mire. When Yoshida comes in he’s pitched energetically against Pinhas’ electronics and succeeds in exploding the piece dynamically, but he’s gradually reined in by the seeming entropy of the loops, and lulled. Gradually he reemerges, revitalised, only for the process to repeat. At 16:45 he’s limbering up again with some loose rounds, then momentarily desists, allowing a hint of ambient stasis to creep in, and then erupts again. This round is just as brief, if not more so, as those that preceded it. Next time, he pitches his detonations at a lope, kicking harder on the bass drum, and persists doggedly, drawing the tension in Pinhas’ playing taut, then reining back to maintain a backbeat. Exhausting: and we’re not yet halfway in.
This is a studio-recorded album, constructed by Pinhas from sessions conducted in Paris and Tokyo in 2013, so there’s no telling how temporally linear anything is. Maybe the two artists didn’t play any of this music together, simultaneously. Perhaps, as the title “Core Trax” implies, they came together only in the mix.
“Core Trax” moves toward its second phase becalmed, with just a brief hint of prog synth melodicism thrown in by Pinhas and enlivening cymbal wash from Yoshida. The drummer then sets up a rapid pattering on toms, later adding splashes of hi-hat and sporadic backbeats, then bolstering his rounds as Pinhas introduces thicker, scuzzier textures with more low end. Again, Pinhas’ mixological vortex draws everything to a still, slow, cyclical pattern from which feedback guitar lines radiate like in beams.
As the performance draws on, a few felicitous production touches keep the listener absorbed: some sampled humming, buried in the grain of a loop; a subtle strand of back-masked percussion; and, right at the end, the hint of a melodic motif, tightly looped and soon spun out, distorted, and reprised to fashion a coda of sorts. This is a long-haul listen, and its structural ebb-and-surge-and-withdraw could frustrate any listener who hasn’t invested enough of their attention.
Pinhas says his ‘Devolution Trilogy’ is concerned with “Capitalism’s devolution, and devolution of (human/biolgical) faculties related to the rise of machines.” It is, he says: “a kind of journey, not into the being but into the void – the nothingness that is now the ‘center’, or the absence-of-center of our societies.” I could get all analytical about the tensions at the heart of music like this, which can seemingly absorb any amount of energy, but I’ll just point out how the drummer, Yoshida, seems to ride the river of Pinhas’ music: it’s his explosive energies that foment white water in the rapids he courses along, channelled in Escher loops by the Frenchman’s machine-music feedback. Closed signalling loops. Control and communication. Cybernetic music.
Richard Pinhas “stereo loop guitar”/”loop stereo guitar”; Yoshida Tatsuya drums, percussion.
Buy Welcome in the Void from Cuneiform via Bandcamp.