Too progressive for electronic music and too electronic for progressive music, Heldon was an oddity on the French progressive rock scene. Led by guitarist and synthesist Richard Pinhas, Heldon spent much of the 70’s in experimental mode. With albums such as “Electronique Guerilla” and “Un Reve Sans Consequence Speciale” (a favorite among the Heldon faithful), Heldon was one third Robert Fripp (King Crimson co-founder and guitarist), one third Magma and one third Klaus Schulze, yet the sound was completely new and different and all their own.
The seventh Heldon album (and their last until “Only Chaos Is Real” in 1998), “Stand By,” released in 1979, is Heldon at their very best. Primarily accompanied by Patrick Gauthier (Mini-Moog, Piano, Polymoog, Keyboards), Francois Auger (drums) and Didier Batard (bass), the band takes no prisoners. Blending the sequencers and guitars is no easy task, but the two main tracks on the album (the finale, ‘Bolero’, and the title track) do it with precision. The title track is so ferocious in it’s statement that once the track ends you find yourself simply shaking your head in disbelief, thinking “I didn’t realize French progressive rock could be so BRUTAL!”
The aforementioned closer, ‘Bolero’ stands apart as the centerpiece of the Heldon cannon. With it’s Tangerine Dreamesque sequences, Pinhas’ over the top guitar playing (not to mention his expert handling of the Moog and Polymoog) and Gauthier’s leads on the Mini-Moog, it’s hard for the mouth not to drop open as you stare at your speakers. Musically, you can almost picture yourself zooming down the highway at night listening to this album. It’s sequencers and heavy guitars allow you to zone out, giving you space to find your entry into these massive soundscapes.
Although Pinhas has continued on the path first set in his post-Heldon material (1978’s “Chronolyse”, 1980’s “Iceland” and 1982’s “L’Ethique” are essential progressive electronic classics and 2002’s “Event And Repetitions” takes Frippertronics to the next level), “Stand By” might be Pinhas’ greatest musical statement. An intoxicating mixture of Industrial music (before there was such a thing), Krautrock, mid-1970s King Crimson and a little bit of Zeuhl mixed with berlin-school type sequencers, Heldon was a band ahead of it’s time, yet they’ve never gotten the credit they have deserved. Instrumental progressive music is difficult enough, but Heldon did it with a style that was unique to them, and it has yet to be duplicated.
For more information on Richard Pinhas and Heldon, check out the following websites:
The official Richard Pinhas website
Heldon on ProgArchives
Heldon on Wikipedia