Since playing on Heldon's Electronique Guerilla in 1974, and with his solo work and collaborations, guitarist Richard Pinhas has rejected conventional rock music-making. Instead, he has melded philosophical inquiry with rock, improvisation, sci-fi futurism, and radical experimentalism to create a body of work bearing his own unmistakable signature. Process & Reality is an hour-long improvisation between Pinhas, industrial electronic noise master Masami Akita (Merzbow), and drummer Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins, Korekyojinn). Though each musician has paired with Pinhas before, and the trio has toured together, this album marks the first time they've recorded as a unit in a studio.
Deliberately titled after Alfred North Whitehead's seminal 1929 book, this encounter is an intense reaction to, and dark prophecy about, the state of the world as it comes apart, with certain historical referents: The Paris attacks in November 2015, the pessimistic spectacle of America's 2016 presidential election, ecological disaster, global terrorism, the wave of fascism emerging across Europe in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis, and the unstoppable evolution of technology as it simultaneously creates dependency among the very workers and societies it displaces. This four-part work is comprised of throbbing electronic drones, loops, industrial, harmonic engagement, wave-like pulses of sound, furious rhythms, squalling, distorted guitar and machine feedback, and masterful control of space and texture. The sonic flow operates as an exchange of information and emotion between musicians. They find the seams between assemblage and dissolution and split them to birth violent, often beautiful possibilities. For Whitehead, reality was "always in the process of becoming." Pinhas and his collaborators turn this on its head: becoming is always the ground for a new and present reality, one that equates pessimism and entropy as elementary parts of the force of re-creation. Pinhas has explored this terrain before -- the two volumes in his as yet unfinished "De-Evolution Trilogy," 2013’s Desolation Row and 2014’s Welcome in the Void (the latter a duo with Yoshida) are examples. Both recordings were made up of fragments that formed a whole. Process & Reality is the whole divided into stages of an unfolding projection. Its deeply layered, focused collective energy balances musicality as it coexists with fluid noise. The trio engage in intuitive, communicative improvisation as they exchange and dissolve present sonic articulations in favor of emergent ones. The divisions between individual pieces don't matter -- they are marks on a map of a soundworld that denote deeper entry into the work's exploration of the terrain as it is given form. The trio embrace chaos as reality, and as such, they become a single voice. The myriad and diverse musical tongues eventually evolve into not only the acceptance of chaos but its logical evolution: an end that swallows everything. Process & Reality is brilliant for many reasons, not the least of which is because it's accessible to listeners outside avant-garde and/or noise fan clusters. The album was released simultaneously with Mu, a very different collective improvisation between Pinhas, Barry Cleveland, Michael Manring, and Celso Alberti.