Schizo (And The Little Girl) / Paraphrenia Praecox

Released 1972 on SFP
The Seth Man, October 2009ce
Schizo was an experimental French Rock group formed by Richard Pinhas after his unrecorded stint as a founding member of the short-lived Blues Convention along with future Magma grunteur Klaus Blasquiz. Schizo’s first release, “Schizo (And The Little Girl)” / “Paraphrenia Praecox” would be the sole release on Pinhas’ own SFP (Société Française de Productions Phonographiques) label. Schizo’s second and final single followed months later on another Pinhas-established label, Disjuncta, which would consequently serve as the outlet for the first four albums by his new band, Heldon. Schizo predated Heldon by a year’s time (renamed by Pinhas after reading Norman Spinrad’s sci-fi novel “The Iron Dream”) and its personnel would be retained by Pinhas (synthesizer, guitar) as Pierrot Roussel (guitar, bass), George Grunblatt (VCS3 synthesizer), Patrick Gauthier (VCS3 synthesizer) and Coco Roussel (drums) all appeared on Heldon’s debut “Electronique Guerilla” LP. (Unlike vocalist Olivier Pamela, who would prove to be an unnecessary component for what was -- save the odd spoken recitation -- an exclusively instrumental group.)

For all this sharing of players, both bands were Pinhas’ vision and yet: Schizo was light years away from resembling Heldon in the least. For a start, absent are all characteristic trace elements of Fripp & Eno’s “(No Pussyfooting)” (along with the invariable synthesizer use), neither side is instrumental and it’s completely hard Rock idiom. In fact, Schizo sound more like the missing link between 1975-era Pere Ubu and (certain moments from) 1978-era Chrome except it was recorded in 1972 and like both those aforementioned space punk successors, owed at least a fraction of debt to Hawkwind’s “X In Search Of Space”: the grinding repetition of over-FX’d guitar, electronic overlays and the excessive use of wah-wah that precipitates the composition into a hard, post-psychedelic throb-a-thon that gnaws thru the silence.

Like air leaking out of the balloon of reality, “Schizo (And The Little Girl)” opens with electronic pulses interrupted by distorted drill signals and hairy, wah-wah guitar that part for a two-channel split into further churning wah-wah guitar and a heavily fuzzed second guitar against a systematic drum and bass pattern. Over this, gruff vocals emerge to bark out a string of perplexing non sequiturs from “rainbow of emotions” to “psychedelic clothes” and “undivided self.” Monomaniacal guitar wah-wah is the hallmark of this single, but here it’s amassed into an industrial strength grind that only parts for the supersnazz strut of the fuzz rhythm guitar break out during the chorus. But the super rubber-legged wah-wah’d guitar solo returns again and again to grind out forever until finally shuddering away in the fade out.

After issuing an agitating (and highly nonplussing) drum intro, “Paraphrenia Praecox” picks up where side one left off. A similar stubborn mid-tempo laden with grinding wah-wah guitar to the fore and steady rhythm backing to the aft of the same strained and sore-throated vocals of Olivier Pamela. The cumulative effect sounds like a warped 45 of “Last Train To Clarksville” played at 33 1/3 refracted through the pieces of a broken nightmare on heavy downers deep within an abandoned industrial park inhabiting the sort of mental state indicated by the group’s name and probably the obscure lyrics as well. The vocals are so scrabble-style and imperceptible it’s not even readily apparent at first that they’re sung entirely in English or French. Throughout the raising sonic temperature of pronounced electronics that soar in and out of dynamic range and glimmer in the darkness at random intervals are filtered layers of further screeching electronic signals that pin everything to a static yet rotating fever dream. The wah-wah use is just as extreme as side one and it causes the guitar to drag itself along at a speed barely exceeding that of a drunken slug oozing over a salt flat while dense keyboards and a second wah-wah’d guitar akin to 1970-era Funkadelic (specifically, the middle of “I Wanna Know If It’s Good To You?” and especially: Worrell’s high pitched and overdriven anchoring riffs) grind out the main warp and woof as slowly tweaked VCS3 swirls thread throughout as gleaming filaments.

A note on the title: ‘Paraphrenia’ is late-onset schizophrenia, characterized by systematic delusions and auditory hallucinations while ‘praecox’ means premature. So the title means something along the lines of ‘premature, late-onset schizophrenia’ -- a concept matched in twistedness to the dementia of this single.