Thursday, 28 July 2011

Univers Zero - 1313 (1977)

Back in the days when a prog fan had to seek out their fare, struggling to find those little prizes, the endless quest, personal and financial sacrifice and constant scorn from a Steve Miller and Carpenters-loving world, Univers Zero was no joke. Startling, brave and years ahead of their time, percussionist Daniel Denis led a chamber septet that rocked, or a rock band that liked to play parlour music... or both, and its history is crucial to the development of European progressive and avant garde music. Their roots began in 1970 with Arkham, the black and brooding Brussels group who traced their inspirations to the Canterbury school in England, particularly Soft Machine and its minimal jazz-rock adventures. Arkham's final concert took place in 1972 and its members went on to play with such legendary acts as Magma, Aksak Maboul, and Pazop. Daniel Denis formed Necronomicon (not the German band) with Claude Deron, finally emerging as Univers Zero in 1974. By 1977 he had some very good help from guitarist Roger Trigaux, bassoon player Michel Berckmans, violinists Marcel Dufrane and Patrick Hanappier, bassist Christian Genet and harmonium player Emmanuel Nicaise. This line-up would produce a music so new and disturbing that it would set the tone for much of the Rock In Opposition that came after, an influence that is deeply felt even today.

On their debut '1313', an unnerving violin and its bassoon counterpart sputter to life, followed by a twisted lot of various strings and trashed drums sounding like a makeshift set of kitchen utensils for the 14-minute 'Ronde', off-putting, squeaky and fantastically progressive. Daniel Denis and friends clearly wanted something more-- to split music apart, bring it back together and revel in the pain of that process. And though the pieces are entirely acoustic chamber music played with precision, the Zeroes did it with a rock spirit no less bare-knuckled than any of their contemporaries. 'Carabosse' murmurs with psychotic tendencies, and 'Docteur Petiot' has the band letting go with inspired darkness, nightmarish delirium, broken toys, and shades of Bartok and fellow Belgian composer Albert Huybrechts. 'Malaise' plays out like a drug withdrawl and 'Complainte' rusts its way out of this troubled record, and us with it.

Progressive Rock in the truest sense, doom music for grown-ups, every fan should have some Univers Zero around... you have to. It's the law UNIVERS ZERO Univers Zero (1313) music reviews and MP3 Review from

Songs / Tracks Listing 1. Ronde (15:08)
2. Carabosse (3:40)
3. Docteur Petiot (7:32)
4. Malaise (7:32)
5. Complainte (3:18)

Total Time: 36:50

Line-up / Musicians
- Michel Berckmans / bassoon
- Daniel Denis / percussion
- Marcel Dufrane / violin
- Christian Genet / bass
- Patrick Hanappier / violin, viola, pocket cello
- Emmanuel Nicaise / harmonium, spinet
- Roger Trigaux / guitaLine-up / Musicians

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