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Art Zoyd - u-B-I-Q-U-e CD (album) cover


Art Zoyd



3.25 | 25 ratings

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3 stars "Ubique" (stylized "u-B-I-Q-U-e") by Art Zoyd was released in 2001. Only two of the early members remained in the band at this time, composer and instrumentalist Gerard Hourbette and keyboardist Patricia Dallio. Besides these two, there were 3 other regular members of the band, whose line up emphasized the use of electronics. On this particular album, however, we see a movement towards the traditional instruments of their original line up in the use of an "orchestra" which consisted of 13 guitars, 3 basses, 6 saxophones, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, 10 drummers, and 1 percussionist. Sounds pretty impressive, right?

Well, it is quite an impressive sound, and it is made all the better with guest conductor Michel Berckmans from "Univers Zero". Unfortunately, the "orchestra" isn't used as much as it should be throughout the album, and you still get left with that feeling that the overall sound depends too much upon electronics. Not that it is a bad thing, but with AZ, the sound was just more appealing when traditional instruments were used. I understand, that like Frank Zappa and other artists, that electronics can generate the perfect sound that artists want, but in the end, they can also make the music sound "fake" or clinical with lesser feel of dynamics and emotion. Some artists are out there that can pull this off, but not often.

The album is based upon the book Ubique by Phillip K. Dick, a science fiction writer. The band calls it a symphonic poem, which is an apt description. The album is divided up into two suites, "Glissements Progressifs du Plaisir" made up of the first 9 tracks, and "Metempsychose" made up of the last 7 tracks.

When the orchestra is used, the result is much better, even when it is used in tandem with the electronic instruments. The music is powerful and cinematic, a dynamic and beautiful. Whether the orchestra section is forte or pianissimo, the overall feel is much more satisfying, though at times, it is used sparingly. However, there are sections where the electronics have the say, too many of them in fact, and those sections just aren't that convincing.

The first 2 parts of the first suite are full and exciting, sounding like an authentic soundscape for the setting of the story. As the suite continues, however, electronic instruments start to take completely over and this is the case for most of the rest of the suite, which takes up a big part of the album. Things tend to get repetitive and unchanging in some sections, and quickly the listener can easily lose interest as repeated patterns and passages tend to wear on you. The last few parts of the suite start to utilize the orchestra better, and things start to improve, but you almost expect a little big more, as some sections tend to put the orchestra into the background behind the electronics.

The 2nd suite starts out with a great combination of both sources and together they create a dramatic and imposing landscape. This continues into the 3rd section of the suite which only consists of various generated noises and effects, but still carries forth the impact. After this, there are 2 long, minimalist sections, that goes on way too long (about 15 minutes) and would have been better served if there were some sort of visual to go with it, but as music, it is too repetitive and uninteresting. While it is true that with a lot of minimalist music, you can conjure up your own visuals, I find it difficult to do with this music because it is meant to portray specific scenes and the only real reaction I get is being startled at the sudden introduction of another instrument. The last two movements are short, but they re-establish the theme of the 2nd suite and things start to get interesting, but it's all over quickly.

Overall, this is the sound you expect from the electronic version of the band, but your expectations could be higher since there is a use of more traditional instruments. They could have been used a little more effectively though, and there are long sections in this overall album that hardly utilize it at all, and see very little movement in the music itself. The album still is good enough to be considered good, but your expectations wish that there was so much more here. I don't think this is an album for people interested in Art Zoyd's style to completely ignore, as there some great passages here, but it is still far from their best work, so it is not one I would start with. I might have a better understanding of the music if I was more familiar with the source of the topic the music is centered around, but it does provoke a darkness and feeling of foreboding, as you would expect in a dark sci-fi story. But a better familiarity might generate a better affinity for the music itself. I can easily settle on 3 stars for this one even with my ignorance of the inspiration of the album.

TCat | 3/5 |


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