Personnel: Richard Pinhas (guitar, synthesizer, guitar synthesizer); Barry Cleveland (guitar, E-bow, sitar, zither, synthesizer, kalimba, percussion, gong, percussion programming, sampler).
Audio Mixer: Barry Cleveland.
Recording information: C.A. Studios; ElevenEleven Recorders; Funk & Disorderly; Heldon Studio.
Photographers: Celso Alberti; Barry Cleveland.
The partnership between guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, and composer Richard Pinhas and Cuneiform Records has been exceptionally fruitful. Not only has the label reissued his earliest experimental recordings, but they've followed up with the catalog of his prog rock band Heldon and released new offerings to boot. Mu is co-billed to guitarist Barry Cleveland and features uber bassist Michael Manring and Brazilian drum master Celso Alberti (the rhythm section Cleveland worked with on 2010's Hologramatron). It is one of two Pinhas collaborations issued on the same date -- the other is Process & Reality, with Merzbow and Tatsuya Yoshida.
These four selections were improvised in the recording studio, then put through Cleveland's post-production compositional development. Pinhas' signature "Metatronic live-looping and effects system" is especially well suited to this quartet's setup. Tempos, textures, and dynamics shift quite naturally within the stream of exploration with exceptional balance. Opener "Forgotten Man" is almost rounded in its quality as Cleveland's labyrinthine melodic sensibilities offer a counterpart to Pinhas' extrapolated loops and riffs. Manring bubbles underneath, providing a countermelody as Alberti adds hand percussion and his drum kit in Middle Eastern time signatures and modes. The centerpiece of the session is "I Wish I Could Talk in Technicolor," which commences with Manring's fleet-fingered bassing, answered in dark phrases by Pinhas and more elegant tones from Cleveland. It suggests the Jon Hassell of Power Spot and/or the David Torn of Cloud About Mercury. Kinetic force develops with breakbeats, flanged guitars, delays, distortion, looping, and tonal and timbral shifts before it concludes in a long dissolve nearly 26 minutes later.
"Zen/Unzen" emerges slowly with a warm but sparkling atmosphere, before Manring and Alberti establish a schema that Cleveland and Pinhas alternately expand upon before poignantly dialoguing with one another. The nine-minute track sounds like one long intro transforming into another, building in intensity until it finally explodes. (Manring's solo is breathtaking to boot.) Closer "Parting Waves" offers drones and open-toned washes that gradually expose the sound of crying seagulls. It evaporates into emptiness just four minutes later. It's the only way Mu could have ended, with merely a blur and a whisper, not a bang. While some may wish for more ferocity, the collective's interplay is so seamless, balanced, and canny, it's completely unnecessary. Since this outing is nearly perfect, the only desire should be for another album. ~ Thom Jurek