At some point, this was going to be Richard Pinhas‘ final album. He even had the title – the social media-troubling @Last. This farewell was conceived and begun at a particularly dark point in his life – he lost his parents and broke up with his girlfriend in the space of a year. He’d had enough, and it was time to bring the curtain down on a long and prolific career.
And yet… Music is often regarded as a healing force, and so it proved here. The process of creating music served as therapy, as Pinhas himself says, to get rid of all the negativity that was surrounding him. So it went from being his last album to a being the work of a freshly invigorated musician – a real reversal of its original intentions.
Reverse really does feel like the sloughing off of dead skin – there is an insistent power through the four tracks as if Pinhas is cauterising the pain through the electricity channelled by his guitar. Much of this underlying density is the work of collaborator Oren Ambarchi who is credited with ‘dronz’ as well as guitar. It’s an album that takes a few minutes to build up a head of steam but once the initial introductory phase is over it becomes a relentless, churning trip with raw guitar and loose drumming.
It’s the work of sticksman Arthur Narcy – along with percussionist William Winant – that really gives Reverse its lurching momentum. As well as being the engine room for the recording, Narcy is often the focal point, powering through the waves of droning guitar. It’s impossible not to tap the fingers while listening to him play: the spirit of Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience lives on in Narcy.
Reverse is an intense listen – to be fair, most albums which feature Masami Akita (Merzbow) can claim the same thing – but once you are lured in by the opening, where the drones and guitars are a little tentative and Narcy plays around on his cymbals waiting for the sound to coalesce, it is an invigorating ride rather than a challenge. Despite Narcy’s valuable contributions for the first three tracks, it is actually the drum-free space of the closing “V2” that is the most directly emotive, in an industrial-ambient sort of way, the guitars reaching unexpectedly high notes before crashing down. It would have been a suitably epic way to sign off a final statement – thankfully, it shows that Richard Pinhas is back to his brutal, beautiful, brilliant best. (Jeremy Bye)