The alternative-history novel “The Iron Dream” was written in 1972 by American author Norman Spinrad. The book written in a complex “novel-within-a-narative” style that frames another science-fiction story, Lord of the Swastika, with Spinard’s critical analysis. With Lord of the Swastike purporting to be written by an “alternative-history” Adolf Hitler. This “Hitler” leaving Germany after World War One to find fame and fortune writing science fiction in the United States. Of course, Lord of the Swastika is populated with the would-be fascist’s toxic world-view. For example, the story contains a description of the Republic of Heldon; a nation-state founded to keeping humanity “pure” of the mutant hordes that roaming the country-side. It’s a fascinating, strange and complicated idea for a novel; oddly, it’s also the source of the “Heldon” band name.
After graduating from the Paris Sorbonne University in 1974 (and presumably reading The Iron Dream), Philosophy PhD Richard Pinhas made a decision that his band “Schizo” should become his full-time concern under a new name; thus “Heldon” was born. The music mostly inspired by King Crimson and the electronic-experimental music pouring our of Berlin in the early 70s; Heldon developing a uniquely innovative sound of it’s own; molding the looping guitar gymnastics of Robert Fripp with a pulsating, electronic Motorik. In other words, Heldon’s music is based firmly in electronic music but without loosing the rich, organic feel of real musicians. The group playing free-lance, structure-less improvisation with driving purpose and forward movement. The conflicting styles mixing and, often, clashing to create bold explorations that defy standard definitions (or constraints). And if you listen close, you’ll hear the uncredited influence of Heldon everywhere in contemporary music; Spaceman 3, (late-period) Wire, Primal Scream and Mogwai all developing their music around a philosophy that Suicide’s Alan Vega called “minimal is maximal”; sound that feels fully maximal, although it is often a swirl of minimal forces.
The most difficult issue with the Schizo / Heldon / Pinhas discography is how to get started; Pinhas eventually using the three monikers interchangably over the course of dozens of releases since 1972. Fortunately, the original six records offer a perfect overview of the groups amazing depth. Moving between the aggressive, molten-heat of ALLEZ TEIA (1975) to the more melodic space-adventures of AGNETA NILSSON (1976). Each record offers the listener a new surprise. The albums veering into the avant-garde outerlimits as Pinhas pushed his music further from the mainstream. Each record will earn a special place for those already intoxicated by the endless innovations of German experimental music. Heldon openning a new French – German corridor to the Krautrock genre. For many, their album, The STAND-BY (1979) should provide the required template for Heldon; with actual song-structures and a limited amounts of “disregard” for the orthodoxy of western music. But orthodox is not the place to begin with this group. And “Accessible” Heldon is not the same as prime-era Heldon.
Conceptually, the first album with the Heldon name, ÉLECTRONIQUE GUÉRILLA (1974) begins with three essential ingredients; the electronic minimalism of Brian Eno & Robert Fripp, the forward direction of Harmonia and the schizophrenic punch of Kluster. That sound puncuated with aggressive rhythms and texture that would become more fully realized with the fetishized noise of Suicide. On Elecrtonic Guerilla, Heldon moves between a mainstream, synth-pop sound to music with an entirely darker purpose. And it’s this exploration of extremes that make Heldon such a sinister delight in all it’s forms.
It’s tempting to refer to Heldon’a music as “space rock” or god help me, “progressive”. Thankfully, the group has little or nothing to do with those misguilded monikers. As if to reenforce the point, we get yhe whispered narration of Friedrich NIetzche’s “The Voyager and His Shadow” by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze on Guerilla’s “Ouais Marchais mieux qu’en 68″. The track showing that Heldon can challenge us on the deepest and most ceribral levels.The album alternating between Pinhas’ avant-garde, Friptonic-guitars, ambient synthesizers and the multi-layered loops that pulsate with the heartbeat of the music. The sound revealing a deep connection between the Fripp & Eno music of the 70s and Heldon’s musical development. ÉLECTRONIQUE GUÉRILLA is the album were those details pull together; exploding with color, tone and timbre. Minimal is maximal.
Heldon’s music plays a unique role in the Kosmische Musik universe; electronic music with a natural feel and complexity of sound. The music inscribed with a distinctly French emotional state – cultured, ornate and melodic soundscapes that call the listener to the dark and dangerous territory of Heldon.