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Univers Zero: Univers Zero (remaster)

Dark, brooding, menacing, and unwilling to fit into any genre, that's historically been the best way to describe the music of Belgium's Univers Zero. Whether you want to call these guys RIO (Rock in Opposition), prog rock, or chamber rock, it really matters not, as Univers Zero were always sort of in a world of their own, their mix of classical, baroque, chamber, jazz, and prog sparked much interest in 1977 with their debut self-titled release (often times also called 1313), here remastered by the folks at Cuneiform, who once again remind us just how important this album really is. Sure, other acts like Frank Zappa, Gentle Giant, Henry Cow, King Crimson, Bela Bartok, Can, and Magma were also pushing the envelope into dark territories as well at the time, but none were able to conjure up such seething menace as Univers Zero. Just take a look at the line-up:

Michel Berckmans - bassoon
Daniel Denis - percussion
Marcel Dufrane - violin
Christian Genet -bass
Patrick Hanappier -violin, viola, pocket cello
Emmanuel Nicaise -harmonium, spinet
Roger Trigaux - guitar

...not your normal rock ensemble, and for the most part, this was an acoustic outing save for Trigaux's (shortly to form the legendary Present) guitar and Genet's bass rumblings. The weaving bassoon, violin, viola, and harmonium melodies are quite unique, and way ahead of its time, Daniel Denis' percussion layered cleverly over the top providing the 'icing on the cake' so to speak. Classic tracks like "Malaise" and "Ronde" really have to be experienced to be believed, and it's best to do so in a cavernous room with the stereo on full volume and the lights dimly lit for maximum effect. Often times the music is chilling, even spooky, but there's plenty of bombast to go along with the dark mood setting elements. Honestly, a track like "Complaints" could easily have been the musical score to a 1920's silent horror's that creepy.

Cuneiform has done a masterful job here on this reissue. Not only does it sound spectacular, but they have included a great bonus track, the near 30-minute live "La Faulx" (free-jazz meets avant-garde mayhem!), as well as a wonderful booklet packed with photos and info on the making of the album and Unvers Zero's early history. As good as this one is, the follow-up, Heresie is even better. If you've never taken the dark journey into the world of Univers Zero, start here and work your way up. It might not be an easy trip initially, but over time you'll be glad you took that first step.

Track Listing
1. Ronde (14:45)
2. Carabosse (3:40)
3. Docteur Petiot (7:25)
4. Malaise (7:42)
5. Complainte (3:18)
6. La Faulx-live bonus track (28:07)

Added: July 21st 2008
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2547
Language: english

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