Fourth solo album by French spacerock mastermind Richard Pinhas. “East West” was his first and only album to be released by a major label (CBS). Some say it is his most commercial one, 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. The best for the music,” reflects Richard 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 the previous year’s Iceland.
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 the thin white duke’s more avant-garde moments: the foreboding “Sense Of Doubt” from Heroes.
Despite having “gone solo”, Pinhas remained a serial collaborator. East West’s 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 none other than writer Norman Spinrad from whose novel, The Iron Dream, Heldon had lifted their name.
East West’s synth-centric tracks, “Kyoto Number 3” for example, 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 flavour, anticipating much later ambient practitioners such as Mountains or Emeralds.
Besides the LP’s relatively succinct running times, it’s “New York: West Side” that takes most responsibility for East West having been categorised 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.”
Indeed, East West hardly represents Pinhas’ shift from abstract composer to pop artist. Rather, it offers a sublime showcase for the sheer diversity of Pinhas’ many powers, all delivered in
handy bite-sized chunks.
1 Houston 69: The Crash Landing
2 London: Sense Of Doubt
3 Kyoto: Kyoto Number 3
4 XXXX: La Ville Sans Nom
5 Home: Ruitor
6 New York: West Side
7 Paris: Beautiful May
8 Keflavik: The Whale Dance
9 Houston 69: Houston 69 (Pt. 2)