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Univers Zero


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5 stars Yes - I was on June 24, 2005 in Brussels, listening to this concert (first six tunes of this record are recorded there)! I specially travelled from Tallinn (the capital of my homeland Estonia) to Brussels with the aim to listen (and see) maybe (in my oppinion) the most important rock-related band ever - Univers Zero (in addition at the same day some hours later there was another amazing live in Brussels but in the other concert place... by another Belgian high quality band Present)! If we look at existing time of the band (UZ is the band from 1974 till now with... fortunately useful pauses between activities) and the quality of music... and even proportion between these properties, then we can't (still but only until now... can't forecast the future) find any bad albums from their discography!!! Well - we have (had) even older until now existing good bands but... they've been sometimes too productive... And in my oppinion the music in general mustn't be rock but... certainly must have "the way to creative eternity".

Univers Zero - the band from Belgium -has called to be one of the important bands of so- called "Rock In Opposition" (the drawn coloumns are not important). Now with this first live album of them they have released altogether 10 albums. Through times in their music they have used very different instruments - bassoon, oboe, horns, saxophones, harmonium, violin, viola, balafon, clarinet, bass clarinet, cello, guitar, mellotron, keyboards, marimba, trumpet, flutes, accordion, bass guitar and of course drums (played by bandleader Daniel Denis). Their music has influences of Stravinsky-like new classical music, jazzrockfusion, zeuhl, canterbury, hints to folklore, and of course - gothic cathedral architecture (anyway I prefer their older classics from 70s and 80s).

Well - I think - 5 stars to this band because of all the Music of them (maybe to this live record only 4,5)! This Brussels' concert of UZ took place in quiet little room of Les Halles De Schaerbeek (this was old covered market from the beginning of XX century). There were about 100-150 persons listening to this great concert (very interesting concerts haven't quite often numerous audience). And in addition to recorded stuff UZ performed for example their good ol' classical architectonics like Dense and Presage. But my favourites seemed to be... surprisingly Kermesse Atomique and Xenantaya there. But - listening this live album I found my faves have changed - they're Electronika Mambo Musette (because of surprisingly lots of saxophone parts) and Meandres.

This was very incredible concert (specially impressive drums-playing of Daniel Denis). About two hours (+ pause) only the greatest pleasure!

Report this review (#70731)
Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars If UZ has reunited by the late 90's, they were mostly not a touring group. But for their recent studio album Implosion, Daniel Denis not only wrote one of his most groundbreaking and spellbinding albums, but also decided to take the group on the road. After a few months of touring, promoting the new album, they announced that they would be recording a live album the Halles de Schaerbeek in Brussels (more or less their hometown). For different reasons, including a purposely-delayed gig of their long- time cross-town rivals Present the same night downtown (UZ was playing uptown), this was a magical night. Only seeing UZ for the second time ever (about one year after the first).

With a fairly different line-up of musicians compared to the Implosion album (most notably the absence of long-time collab Descheemaeker, the gig was not very well attended (this was just the start of holidays), but the expectations were great and the reception was warm from us. UZ was simply brilliant and the musicians were clearly on the best niveau (level). UZ has never been a group of histrionics and shredding solos, but rather an incredibly tight group where improvisation is not absent, but tightly controlled still, keeping things concise (well most of the time anyway ;-) and the listener awake. The result is a sonically superb show with an interesting video montage and ambient stage lightning that are as much as feasibly possible shown in the lenghty booklet (for a change), but you had to be there - at least I did. The set list presented here is of course partly re-presenting the full show, but the selection is widespread throughout their discography, having chosen to feature only two tracks from their latest album, although not the shortest ones. The only changes I (yes, moi ;-) would've made on this album is keep away Kermesse Atomique, which I had not liked that night and I am confirming this now, and the Falling Rain Dance track (never been a fan of drum solos, however excellent the drummer as is the case here). Of interest is Electronica Mambo Musette, which sounds anything but mambo, but rather borrows on improv some of Ravel's bolero.

As we are now waiting for the DVD of a later show in Paris, this superb live album might only be of moderate use unless you are a confirmed fan. Don't know 'bout ya, but I am ;-)

Report this review (#82280)
Posted Friday, June 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars Well I do think this deserves 4 stars relatively speaking, but I feel that the power, intensity and darkness that draws me to this band is sorely missing from this live album. Sure we see glimpses of it but that's not enough.This just feels like a "safe" recording to me. This performance came after the "Implosion" album, a recording that contains those three attributes in a big way. Part of it might be because the lineup for this live release is about half of what was on the "Implosion" album. My least favourite UNIVERS ZERO album "The Hard Quest" is represented the most here as well. This is a really good album i'm just giving reasons why it doesn't thrill me like most of their recordings do.

"Xenantaya" is the song that comes closest by far to representing what I love about this band. The dark atmosphere for the first 3 minutes followed by the bass and drums is great. Violin 5 1/2 minutes in and check out the keyboards before 8 1/2 minutes as drums and bass support. Great tune ! "Civic Circus" is from "The Hard Quest" and it opens with heavy drums before settling into an intricate soundscape. Violin before 3 minutes as a calm with piano follows. "Electronika Mambo Musette" is from a Daniel Denis solo album. Odd sounds to open before it kicks in around a minute with horns leading. Violin then organ follows. Horns end it. "Kermesse Atomique" is from "The Hard Quest" and is laid back as different sounds come and go. Some dissonance to end it.

"Bonjour Chez Vous" is from "Ceux Du Dehors" and has a more Classical style to it with a rhythm. "Meandres" just doesn't sound as good as the studio version from "Implosion". Violin, drums and aboe stand out early. I like when it settles after 5 minutes with piano. Drums and bass join in. A dark calm before 9 1/2 minutes. Good song. "Falling Rain Dance" is also from "Implosion". It opens with a drum solo of sorts. Love when the chunky bass arrives 4 1/2 minutes in. "Toujours Plus A L'est" is from the "Crawling Wind" EP. It opens with piano as violin joins in. A full sound follows. A calm 4 1/2 minutes in with violin and flute. It kicks back in around 7 minutes.

I'm not giving up on this one yet, but I just wouldn't feel right about giving it 4 stars right now. Still if your a fan of this band i'm sure you'll love it. It's their only live album right now.

Report this review (#253916)
Posted Tuesday, December 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Univers Zero - Live

20100515 Three tracks from The Hard Quest, (one of the few UZ albums I've yet to get), one from a Daniel Denis solo album, one from Crawling Wind (now an album from it's original 3 track beginnings - hey, progressive... the albums don't remain the same) and two from Implosion.

UZ feature the usual line up of violins, clarinets, oboes, and keyboards along with drums and bass. The playing and production is first class.

The album begins magnificently. Xenantaya is all dread and menace. The band is tight and the drum solo (not really expected of UZ IMHO) merges as a longer intro into Falling Rain Dance; the bass links in with the ease born of quality performance and rehearsal. The audience is present but one is only aware in between tracks.

Honestly I'm not really sure what to expect of an official UZ live album. I have a feeling a 2 CD (or 2 CD / DVD) set might have served better and with more material, possibly some unreleased material.

However the playing is all one would expect of this magnificent band. Toujours Plus ŕ l'Est is the closest to a golden familiar oldie (and this term is a totally inappropriate way to refer to UZ music.) It is improvised at times but the return to the theme is as tight and focused that unless one knew the original one might not realize just how much other work is done on it. Additional keyboard harmonies really bring out the lustre of this piece. Really this is marvelous stuff.

The music is time less, the performances superb. If you are a UZ fan you'll love it. I can only give it four stars, essential to a UZ collection and fine addition to anyone with a serious progressive or art rock type collection.

Actually a three star album is all what one can reasonably expect of most bands (to provide cohesive, original, well performed and recorded material for the most part) but this is Univers Zero. I just think a 2 CD set might have done more them better justice. You see, as far as the material goes performance and atmosphere wise it's there. But there is no sense of concert climax. It could be a middle bit but the live album just doesn't act as a concert; it's too short.

Still, apparently this gives an indication of the performance sequence, unfortunately I cannot confirm... I have a feeling there is more to a UZ concert than the hour or so here. Like I say, a 2CD set is needed. Still there are always the performances on Relaps to enjoy as well as this gem.


Report this review (#282143)
Posted Sunday, May 16, 2010 | Review Permalink

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