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.
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Cabezas de Cera and Jack o' the Clock, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more
Acoustic Festival of Britain 2017 Announces Eclectic Lineup – The Acoustic Festival of Britain has been going since 2006, and this year's event sees a number of outstanding artists on the bill. Fairport Convention, Tir na nOg, and Martin Turner are some of the artists we've covered, and there are many more, including The Men They Couldn't Hang, Howard Jones, Chantel McGregor, and many more. The festival runs June 2-4, 2017 at Uttoxeter Racecourse in Staffordshire. » Read more