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This reissue of Univers Zero's second album serves as a reminder as to how its singular visionespecially with the passing of decades (such a tricky notion, given the nature of the music)has been upheld with an extraordinary collective force of will.
The usual terms applyas much as anything the group has ever committed to record, this is music as overcast, dank and cold as an English Sunday afternoon in January, but to a notably unusual degree, the devil of this Belgians group's music really is in the details. In allying itself with the Rock In Opposition movement in the late 1970s when this album was recorded, Univers Zero effectively signposted what it was all about, as this is rock music devoid of every posture known then and, to a large extent, even now. A bassoon both troubled and serene emerges in the midst of "La Faulx," for example, to trigger a moderate about-face in the proceedings, while the vision remains admirably true to itself, and thus in opposition to any notions of compromise.
"Vous Le Saurez En Temps Voulu" is a hybrid born of formalism and a rarefied form of rock, through which momentum is generated by repetition and urgency, both of them underscored, perhaps inevitably, by the degree of tension which is an integral part of the group's ambience. Despite this, the little duo danced by violin and bassoon at around the 5:20 mark has the hallmark of playful irony, something which is hardly one of the qualities that springs to mind when discussing this group's music.
The bonus track on this reissue is "Chaos Hermetique," which has been remastered, with admirable clarity, from a cassette. What's also admirable is the insight it offers into the band at an early stage of gestation. Recorded in 1975, it documents rockier music, albeit music from which the virtuosic excess of a lot of progressive rock had been purged. Drummer Daniel Denis owed more than he did subsequently to the conventional rock approach, but his work has the effect of adding another layer of tension to an atmosphere not lacking it.
Ultimately, however, the issue of passing time is irrelevant to a band like this, especially as so few others have attempted such a hybrid of forms. One consequence of this is that there is no choice but to take Univers Zero's music for what it is. The odd thing is that once the taste is acquired, it's impossible to ignore it.
Track Listing: La Faulx; Jack The Ripper; Vous Le Saurez En Temps Voulu; Chaos Hermetique.
Personnel: Michel Berckmans: oboe, bassoon (1-3); Patrick Hanappier: violin (1-4), viola (1-3); Roger Trigaux: guitar (1-4), piano, organ, harmonium (1-3); Vincent Motoulle: keyboards (4); Guy Segers: bass (1-4), voice (1); Daniel Denis: drums, percussion (1-4)
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.