Monday, 25 July 2011

Univers Zero - Rhythmix (2002)

By the time this thing came out, I was completely primed for it. I'd become immersed in Univers Zero, and finally come to appreciate the nuances of The Hard Quest as compared to their earlier work. I knew it would take a few listens to grasp the work as a whole, and sat patiently through my first listen, waiting for the defining moment.

The first thing that struck me was the addition of so much extra instrumentation. The return of cello was nice, and flute and accordion were presented with a subtle enough touch as to be virtually transparent. The kickers, though, are trumpet (!) and acoustic guitar. Christophe Pons' guitar work on "Rouages: Second Rotation" saved the sequel from tedium. After several listens, I can no longer decide if I like the original better, and the guitar has everything to do with that.

The defining moment comes with the opening of "The Fly-Toxmen's Land". As soon as it started I thought "This is it!", and was blown away by every note of it. The trumpet's arrival is absolutely jarring, which is fitting for such a brutal composition. New bassist Eric Plantain holds his own with spidery bass fingering against Denis' rampant thumping, while the winds and percussion swirl around like dreams of angry lactating bats. Before long (I wish it were longer!), the whole thing shifts into a melancholic coda, with the trumpet resurfacing in a much less piercing fashion. Denis' drums take on a more direct approach, with bass and keys repeating a daunting riff. I must admit that I only listened to this one song for months after buying the CD. Five minutes was just not long enough.

All in all, Rhythmix holds up to modern Univers Zero standards. Berckmans' style is very present, and the structure throughout the CD never falters. I suppose one could credit the somewhat more subdued pieces to 'maturity', but I'd say they hold up to moments on Heresie and 1313, which aren't exactly infantile works. While there may be more to appreciate with the early works, this CD is perhaps more accessible to new listeners, and not a disappointment to old fans. Ground and Sky review - Univers Zero - Rhythmix

Songs / Tracks Listing
1. Terres Noires (6:06)
2. Rêve Cyclique (5:53)
3. Rouages: Second Rotation (3:38)
4. The Invisible Light (3:09)
5. Phobia (5:31)
6. Zorgh March (3:23)
7. Zébulon (2:19)
8. Forêt Inviolée (2:19)
9. Shangaï's Digital Talks (4:48)
10. Emotions Galactiques (5:47)
11. Waiting for the Sun (3:16)
12. The Fly-Toxmen's Land (4:50)
13. Rêve Cyclique (0:50)

Total Time: 51:59
Line-up / Musicians - Daniel Denis / drums, percussion, keyboards
- Michel Berckmans horns and wind instruments
- Eric Plantain / bass
- Bart Quartier / marimba, other percussion

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