This latest release from Belgium's masters of the avant-garde, Univers Zero, is somewhat of a departure for the band. Veering slightly from their dark and foreboding sound that they have made famous over the last 25+ years, the band seems to have "brightened" a bit, incorporating a symphonic flair, as well as a few jazzy elements, to their normally moody repertoire. This will surely please many, as the results on Implosion are a bit more accessible, and easier to listen to for the casual prog rock fan, yet the music still retains much of what the hardcore Univers Zero audience likes to hear.
A perfect example of this new sound can be heard on "Falling Rain Dance", a bouncy jig led by the melodic violin playing of Igor Semenoff and the exploratory oboe passages from Michel Berckmans. Here, you can almost compare the band to famed world fusion ensemble Oregon, with all the wispy acoustic instruments and various forms of percussion. It's a stark contrast to the ominous "Partch's X-Ray" that follows, which features crashing drums & mallets, spooky keyboards, flugelhorn, and bassoon. The band crosses into almost Gryphon-like territory on "Rapt D'Abdallah", a quirky piece with interweaving bassoon, oboe, flugelhorn, piano, synth, cello, and guitar lines. Haunting Mellotron samples provide a unique backdrop to the jazzy funk of "Temps Neufs", where Daniel Denis' drums snap and pop underneath the hip horn section and Fender Rhodes vamps. Bassist Eric Plantain bursts into the mix about three-quarters of the way through this tune with Jannick Top-like intensity, giving the whole piece a intensity very similar to classic Magma.
Like I mentioned earlier, there's also a bunch of dark & moody pieces here as well, like the death march drone of "La Mort de Sophocle (Sophocle's Death)", featuring eerie violin & cello strains as well as ominous gong effects, and the tribute to the Mellotron on the dark and complex "Mellotronic." Here, acrobatic acoustic guitar provides the lead instrument, while huge Mellotron samples and intricate synth & Glockenspiel passages (can you say Gentle Giant?) sprout all over the place. Along the way there are a few creepy and twisted pieces that serve as quick segues to other songs, all classic sounding Univers Zero, but the longest cut is saved for last, the near 10-minute "Meandres." Here, a constant yet fast Mellotron drone is played while various instruments like sax, violin, piano, English horn, oboe, and clarinet take turns soloing. The pace is fairly quick, sort of like a union of jazz and classical styles, until the cello, violin, and piano slow things down and create an unnerving tension that totally changes the atmosphere of the piece into a dark and foreboding soundtrack to some creepy horror movie. No doubt, Univers Zero at their finest.
Implosion is a highly enjoyable and mature work from these master musicians, and a true progression of sorts for the band. It's nice to see them try some new things, and I think the experimenting they have done really works here, and listeners who have found the bands music to be dense in the past may not feel that way with this release. Highly recommended!
1) Suintement (Oozing) (1:13)
2) Falling Rain Dance (4:12)
3) Partch's X-Ray (5:21)
4) Rapt D'Abdallah (3:01)
5) Miroirs (Mirrors) (1:18)
6) La Mort de Sophocle (Sophocle's Death) (3:11)
7) Ectoplasme (1:07)
8) Temps Neufs (4:56)
9) Mellotronic (4:04)
10) Bacteria (1:28)
11) Out of Space 4 (2:52)
12) First Short Dance (0:42)
13) Second Short Dance (0:41)
14) Variations on Mellotronic's Theme (3:04)
15) A Rebours (In Revers) (1:56)
16) Meandres (Meanderings) (9:38)