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ConcertsNEARfest 2004: Richard Pinhas / Sean Malone

Posted on Wednesday, July 21 2004 @ 23:43:29 CDT by Jedd Beaudoin
Concert Reviews Painful Pinhas pokes the ears; Malone, you left too soon.

We'll talk about Richard Pinhas in a moment but first let's get some things straight. We've heard it before. Soundscapes. Just noise. Not music. Might as well give an axe to a baboon and let him have a go at it. And it's true. At least in the hands of lesser talents. Give virtually any kid a drum machine, a computer and a way bitchin' effects rack and he can create a reasonable approximation of a soundscape. But, then again, give most kids a guitar and half-an-hour and they can learn "Louie, Louie" or "Twist and Shout" and execute each or the other with some competency.

Ultimately, you can argue back and forth about what is and isn't music and whether soundscaping is actually about creating music or merely manipulating technology. Robert Fripp has demonstrated time and again, through albums such as A Blessing Of Tears that you can make gorgeous music with the aide of technology. American guitarist Andre LaFosse has un-scaped the scapes with his own unique brand of guitar performance. Point: The old saying is true: All this machinery making modern music can still be openhearted.
Can. In the hands of Richard Pinhas, though, at least during his mercifully brief afternoon performance at NEARfest, it became clear that it doesn't always go down that way. Using a computer jockey and effects rack to help create a wall of noise, Pinhas played a set that any kid with a predilection for gimmickry and the sound of his own voice could. In short, the compositions proved largely indistinguishable from one another, each being nothing more than a wash of random noise. No other words for it.
I can't even pretend that it was "challenging," unless you want me to be one of those people who says that eating hot water with toothpicks and shredded carrots is "an interesting and rewarding culinary experience for those who wish to wait 24-48 hours to pass the material from their system." And it didn't help that watching Pinhas on the stage is about as exciting as watching books on a shelf. At times, you had to wonder if the compositions wouldn't have been more interesting had they existed in some disembodied state, without two chaps sitting on the stage, whipping out one agonizing drone after another and delaying the inevitable and triumphant appearance of the Mike Keneally Band.
Overall? Heartless and worse still, painful.
Flash forward to Sean Malone's solo bass and stick set the following afternoon: Malone was never anything less than a graceful gentleman who bothered to create melody and harmony both with his bass and Chapman stick. More importantly, Malone never seemed to take the audience's attention for granted. Ever humble, he wowed us because he didn't think that he could.

Solo bass may not be the most fascinating instrument to listen to (except when in the hands of folks such as Malone) but it seemed like a grand and sweeping symphony in the hands of the man who brought us Gordian Knot.

Like the traveling moment between our last breath and the gates of paradise, Malone's set ended much too quickly, but was all the more sweet for it.

Jedd Beaudoin

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