French progressive rock group Heldon, founded by guitarist Richard Pinhas, have a long history and a large back catalog of compelling recordings to boot. When they appeared in 1973 with debut album Electronique Guerilla, their sound was futuristic, bordering on fantasy, and tempered with spoken word passages. It was an inauspicious affair, and listening today, it sounds exactly like a European progressive rock record from 1975.
Album number two, Allez-Téia, came a year later, and highlighted a band that had quickly realized its strong parts. Gone were the dodgy French spoken word parts, with the long, melodic instrumental passages taking precedence. More terrestrial instrumentation is explored, featuring beautiful, subtle guitar picking on “Aphanisis” and “Michel Ettori.” Two songs, “In The Wake of King Fripp” and “Moebius,” have titles that pay tribute to contemporaries–showing that they were aware of the times they operated in.
Still, the band goes big with epic yet unhurried synth-driven compositions, and even though they’re utilizing equipment that could make computerized, futuristic music, they’ve eschewed the temptation to do so. By not trying to imagine a future sound, they’ve ironically done just that. It’s quite easy to hear on bands as far-ranging and diverse as Mouse on Mars, The Notwist, Mono, and Eluvium, as well as labels such as Editions Mego and Kranky.
Though may sound a lot more contemporary than it did nearly 40 years ago, it’s a testament to this little record and these musicians that their sounds way more contemporary than they did 40 years ago.