AMN Reviews: Heldon – Antelast (2022; Bam Balam Records)

Guitarist and synthesist Richard Pinhas has revived the legendary Heldon for one final(?) release, Antelast. Heldon initially existed from 1974-1979, putting out a series of albums that combined space rock with heavy doses of electronics and Kosmiche influences. Pinhas briefly brought Heldon back for a 2001 studio release, Only Chaos is Real, that was more mainstream in nature, with pop structures and vocals.

Here, Pinhas returns to form with five instrumental pieces recorded live in the studio between 2019 and 2021. He updates Heldon’s sound with a young, energetic rhythm section of bassist Florian Tatard and drummer Arthur Nancy.

Long-time fans will find much to like. Pinhas mans his electric guitar and analog synths for long jam sessions full of held notes, dronings, and cosmic progressive-rock stylings. On the opening track, Antelast One, Tatard and Nancy are monstrously active, driving the pace forward. Antelast Two, on the other hand, begins with a funk-inflected rhythm before Pinhas interjects soaring waves of guitar soloing and synth textures. Indeed, his soloing throughout is notably compelling for its sheer aggression and relentlessness. Further tracks involve offbeat sequenced bounciness tempered Nancy’s corresponding attack on his drumset. The album culminates with Antelast Five, a short piece that incorporates walls of sound and appears to be more freely improvised than the preceding tracks.

One observation is that the overall mix is slightly muddy, with Pinhas often being buried more than I’d prefer. Some of this might be due to cranking up the distortion on his guitar to the edge of overdrive. But it is a minor issue and does not detract from the overall enjoyment of the album. Thus, this release gets two thumbs up. Well done, Richard, and welcome back!

Antelast will be released on April 22.