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Univers Zero - Univers Zero [Aka: 1313] CD (album) cover

UNIVERS ZERO [AKA: 1313]

Univers Zero

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.23 | 234 ratings

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stefro
Prog Reviewer
2 stars One of the five founding members present at 1978's very first 'Rock In Opposition' festival in London(don't ask) Belgian avant- gardists Univers Zero belong to that strange little sub-set of groups who have essentially been thrown-in with the prog-rock crowd as a result of their inherant weirdness, the utterly unclassifiable nature of their sound, but most of all because there was simply no place else to put them. Branding Univers Zero under the label of prog-rock is therefore not only incorrect, but dangerously misleading as some listeners have discovered, for this is not rock music as you probably know it. Dark, challenging, deliberately obtuse, influenced by 20th century classical music, chamber music and rock 'n' roll(really?) and featuring a line-up of seriously capable musicians armed with acoustic instruments such as bassoons and obeoes, Univers Zero are, very probably, every record company executives darkest nightmare. Of the five groups present at that very first RIO concert, Univers Zero are arguably the most inaccessible of the lot, making even British avant-jazz jokers Henry Cow seem bright and breezy in comparison. Therefore it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn that this was a group that largely operated outside the margins of the known Music Biz universe, in the process becoming influential members of the RIO movement's subsequent get- togethers. Self-released in 1977, the group's eponymous debut is now regarded as a cornerstone of the genre, and on paper it seems like an intriguing proposition, yet the reality is rather more disturbing. That's because one of the main tenets of the RIO sound, and a core piller of it's DNA, is to utilise intricately-woven and deliberately-unsatisfying melodies and chord sequences to create a sound unlike anyother, meaning that to the average rock fan the music of Univers Zerio must sound acutely awful. However, those versed in ways of prog-rock may find more crumbs of interest than most, if only for the way the music is constructed, and not because of the way it sounds. Whilst for some the RIO movement was an exciting platform for creating original, daring and thought-provoking new music, for pretty much everyone else it was just a bunch of overly-intellectual art-twits indulging in inaccessible silliness. Some of the music is of course valid, but for many the experience of listening to this record will prove rather unpleasant. Subsequent listens do reveal the complex disposition of the compositions, the subtle and shifting textures and the surprisingly strong rock 'n' roll influence, yet the relentlessly confrontational nature quickly becomes gruelling, making this a hard listen for anyone in search of actual entertainment. Yes, it's impressively played and original and all that jazz, but in the end none of that seems to matter. Give me Foreigner, Journey or Styx anyday. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2015
stefro | 2/5 |

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