Sunday, August 1, 2010

Univers Zero - Clivages (2010)

It's been thirty-two years since the RIO (Rock in Opposition) movement began from the minds of the England-based Henry Cow. Under their festival created for their ideas, they invited 5 other bands from around the continent under the tagline of "5 bands the record labels don't want you to hear", and, among those names, was the 4 year old, Belgian chamber group Univers Zero. Spearheaded by drummer Daniel Denis and influenced by Bela Bartok, Igor Stravinsky as well as jazz and rock bands of the day, Univers Zero led themselves into a unique place as one of the most complex, dark bands with as sound explained as "If Stravinsky had a rock band, it would sound like [Univers Zero]...".
And now, over 30 years later, they're continuing that sound. With Clivages, Daniel and his band take us back to the wild days of RIO while managing to still keep things fresh. The dense sound-scapes are still there, and 57 year old Denis can still crash or dance depending on the mood. As horns float, bass grooves and strings flutter, his drums steady the frantic rhythm, keeping the upbeat sound in tact, and when shredding guitars enter, and those basslines begin to chug as the strings get more and more dense, that steady drum track turns into a flurry of crashes and rolls. This, however, should not be confused for an improvisational cacophony. This group of composers has meticulously planned each and every movement from their competent hands. Nothing is out of place and there are no mis-steps. As all the sounds come together, you get the perfect sense of what this band wants to create, and what they have been creating for 30+ years.
This is consistency at it's highest form. It's a considerable achievement to create an album like this even once. Even as they did in the seventies when they were 20somethings just entering the scene and creating a sound of your own. And it's an achievement to make an album with this ferocity when you're reaching your sixties, ages that they may have seen as passed the age of rock and noise. Univers Zero has done each of those, and everything in between, and this certainly show no signs of a loss of the same opposition they were a part of so long ago.

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