Univers Zéro — Clivages
(Cuneiform Rune 295, 2010, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2011-06-01
The word "darkness" is often prominently mentioned in descriptions of the music of Univers Zéro, and there are certainly aspects of this newest release that fit that mold. However, the predominance of clarinet, bassoon, glockenspiel, and violin in the arrangements often lends a lightness to the mood in spite of the jarring rhythms and dissonance. The opening track, "Les Kobolds," is positively bouncy, with only a slightly ominous ostinato in the low end of the piano hinting at the band's sinister reputation. Of course, that is followed directly by "Warrior," which is full of creepy noises and distorted bass notes thumping out beats that would sound at home backing a dark ritual in a horror movie. The moments of uneasy calm, where distant, indistinct sounds wallow in misty atmospheres, only serve to heighten the impact of the impending rhythmic outbursts. The band's combination of modern Classical music (Stravinsky, Bartók) with free improvisation and rock makes for a heady blend which is obviously not for everyone, but for those so inclined is a very tasty mixture. The musicianship and composition are of the highest order, no fumbling dilettantes here, and no reach-exceeds-grasp unrealized ambition — these guys (four of whom contribute compositions) have big, complex ideas and are perfectly capable of implementing them. Does it stand up to the albums that made their reputation? To my ear, it does; while it may be subtler, this is a sign of maturity rather than lack of ideas.
Didier Lockwood RIP – Word reaches us today of the death of one of France's great jazz musicians, violinist Didier Lockwood. His playing bridged many worlds, from traditional jazz to fusion to progressive rock, and his talent can be heard on recordings by Magma, Clearlight, Pierre Moerlen's Gong, and many more. Lockwood was 62. » Read more
10 Years of Fruits de Mer - The Incomplete Angler – Those of you who are faithful followers of Exposé will know that we have been promoting Fruits de Mer and its side labels and releases from nearly its first year. Now music journalist and author Dave Thompson has written a book chronicling the past ten years as a celebration of this milestone. » Read more
Bill Bruford Ventures into Uncharted Territory – Drum master Bill Bruford, veteran of some of the most creative bands in history (King Crimson, Yes, Genese, etc.), is sharing some of what he's learned about being a drummer and a musician in his new book, Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer, out on University of Michigan Press. » Read more
Nouvelles Lectures Cosmopolites - Friesengeist, Part 1 – As soon as I submerge the opening of the first track “Ballade” of Part 1 I’m hooked. It’s this wistful folk mood of accordion, piano, and vocal melody which touches a nerve... (2006) » Read more