Quite the revelation here, Cuneiform Records offering up vintage live Univers Zero from the years 1984-1986, recorded in various venues in Germany and Belgium. It's always amazing how dark, brooding, and often times heavy this 'RIO/chamber rock' institution can get, most of the time utilizing acoustic instruments, and here on Relaps is no exception. For those unfamiliar to the world of Univers Zero, this is often times unsettling, chaotic, and ominous music, yet there lies a uncurrent of extreme beauty, the musicians able to pull the listener in many diferent directions, one moment pummeling them with haunting crescendos, the next lulling them with a gentle, gorgeous passage. The line-up for these records was the bands most stable throughout the early part of the 80's, though they would soon go on extended hiatus after these series of live shows. Led by principle songwriter & drummer Daniel Denis, the rest of the band included Dirk Descheemaeker on clarinet & sax, Christian Genet on bass, Andre Mergenthaler on cello & sax, and Jean-Luc Plouvier on keyboards, with Patrick Hanapper on violin, Michel Delory on guitar, and Andy Kirk on keyboards joining for the 1985 & 1986 shows.
The dueling sax and cello outbursts on the extended "Presage" are mindblowing, Denis' busy drum work and plenty of keyboard textures providing the dark framework. A similar feel can be heard on "Parade", the cello quite ominous as sax lines flutter about the mix, Plouvier's piano melodies keeping everything grounded while Genet's rumbling acoustic bass adds a steady groove. This is complex, frighteningly dramatic stuff for the serious prog fan. Again, though this is mostly acoustic music, the effect is quite foreboding and heavy, as the band hits you almost as a doom metal band would, tunes like "Emanations", the classic "Heatwave", and "The Funeral Plain" rampages through your speakers with the power of heavy rock, yet with the deft touch of classical or jazz. The version of "Heatwave" here is one of the most startling slices of avant-prog you will ever let your ears feast on, jagged shards of guitar, booming bass, squawking sax, layers of keyboards, soaring violon, and bombastic drum patterns all fighting for supremacy yet the overall effect is grandiose and majestic.
This is amazing stuff, more proof of just how unique and powerful this Belgian band always was, and still is for that matter. If you have a penchant for archival live prog recordings, make sure you add this one to your 'must have' list.
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