In 2013, French guitarist and experimentalist Richard Pinhas issued the stellar Desolation Row, the first album in his "devolution" trilogy. This series of recordings attempts to explore -- and rail against -- the consequences of global hyper-capitalism and neo-liberalism and their reliance on machines to control entire societies. Welcome in the Void, with drummer Yoshida Tatsuya (founder and drummer of Japanese jazz-rock-noise terrorists Ruins), is one of two simultaneous and collaborative releases by Pinhas; the other is Tikkun, a different project with Oren Ambarchi. This date, the second chapter in the "devolution" trilogy, bears the classic tenets of the guitarist's radical experimentalism via textured layers of guitar sounds through loops, distortion, ambient spaces, and wide-ranging dynamics. They are combined with Tatsuya's canny, endlessly inventive drumming; a playing style that has always gone beyond the beat to reveal and uncover what lies in the heart of sound itself. "Welcome in the Void" kicks off with an explosive four-minute intro. A wave of loops introduces Tatsuya, who takes the lead, pushing his snares, floor toms, and kick drums frenetically with crashing cymbals to accent their statements. There is a traceable rhythm at this piece's heart via a series of repeated crescendos, but it is woven inside fluctuating improvisation. Pinhas moves through layers of effects -- some resembling a Hammond B-3 -- to add a pulse to the drummer's airborne flourishes and physical propulsion that forces those loops ever forward. By contrast, "Welcome in the Void, Pt. 2" is over an hour long. It commences with a wave of distorted drums that resembles Merzbow's machine noise, and gives way a few minutes later to Pinhas' single-string and chordal statements doubled and tripled with dubwise echo effects and digital delays. The rising and falling waves of loops and the multivalent spectre of timbral inquiry create an enchanting but slightly foreboding atmosphere for nearly ten minutes before Tatsuya re-enters. When he does, the composition's phases change rapidly, adding and then shedding its skin to reveal both emotions -- from rage to melancholy to hope -- and the sonic ability to transcend outside forces with a sonic elasticity. Loops that assert themselves, often forcefully, are gradually and purposefully replaced, note by note, with others as Tatsuya finds the spaces between, filling them with density and tension and creating new ones. What eventually unfolds transcends rock, jazz, noise, and vanguard improvisation. It becomes -- even in its radical assertions of resistance to categorization -- a work of great beauty where virtually all of Pinhas', and by turns Tatsuya's, talents are employed in a grand yet surreal narrative where the positive evolution of music and sound are statements of defiance that affirm the human spirit during an era of cultural and historical doubt and darkness. Music does contain the power not only to resist, but to redefine arguments. As such, Welcome in the Void certainly does its part.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek