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Univers Zero - Implosion CD (album) cover


Univers Zero



4.05 | 113 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Several years ago I borrowed "Heresie" by UNIVERS ZERO from a friend who shared my taste for COIL, THROBBING GRISTLE, and JOHN CAGE. I remember thinking: "Wow...scary stuff, I must remember to check out this band." Something came up, and I never bought the album. For years I kept it on my must buy list, and other albums just kept edging it out. You see, while it was creepy and brilliant (two big recommendations for me) it just didn't stick in my head enough to make it an urgent purchase. Eventually I just forgot I'd ever heard of the band.

So imagine my surprise when I listened to "Implosion"...sure, it's sometimes eerie and always atmospheric, but nothing like the soul-grinding bowel-clenching music I remembered. Had time made me callous to the delightful chills that UNIVERS ZERO once gave me? Suddenly "Heresie" was back on the must-buy list, to see if I'd been misled...and I wasn't- the earlier album was almost as wonderfully horrifying as I remembered.

So they've matured, I decided, and tried to strip the preconceptions aside and listen with fresh ears. For the casual listener, this is "Soundtrack music with attitude" or "New Age with balls". RIO fans need no such introduction, of course, but they probably all already own this album anyway (or should). All you need to know is that the album is an assortment of orchestral and electronic instruments creating slightly dark atmospheric soundscapes of impressive originality. It's not really that close to soundtrack music, though- it demands more attention and refuses to fade into the background. I'll bet these guys are amazing to see live.

"Out of Space 4" is characteristic of about half of the album (and one of my favorites), with a playful wind ensemble trading movements with piano and acoustic guitar over a driving rhythm. "Partch's X-Ray" (an homage to idiosyncratic composer and instrument-designer Harry Partch) is more characteristic of the other face of the band, an exotic and eerily abrasive but satisfying piece. There's plenty of subtle tension and development in these short and deceptively simple songs- no real resolution or closure, but that would be a little too straightforward for UNIVERS ZERO. I'm assuming they'd much rather you be left hanging with the mood they create. In most cases, it's worth listening to individual tracks rather than the whole album at once, as there's a fairly wide range of moods evoked and it's easy to get overwhlemed.

Songs like "Falling Rain Dance", "Temps Neufs" and "Meandres" occasionally stray a little closer to a (relatively) standard jazz-rock format, but conversely these sections are often somewhat weaker than the more avant-garde experimentation. Where "Implosion" shines is when you realize you've never heard anything quite like it. Whether you will like "Implosion" depends mainly on where your breaking point is between enjoyably challenging and unlistenable, between frustrating and rewarding. I'm still not sure how much I like "Heresie", and this album is less gleefully gut-wrenching- if no less masterful and evocative. Because it may not compliment "any prog music collection", I can't give it the four stars it really deserves...but take my word, it's really, really worth trying out.

James Lee | 3/5 |


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