Univers Zero - Univers Zero (1313) (1977)

What a slap in the face Univers Zero gives you in terms of an introduction to their music. I cannot think of one group that dared so much at once in their debut album as UZ did at the time, bar some other RIO outfits. Mostly an acoustic band (bar the bass and some of Trigaux’s guitars), the music coming out here is a cross of Zappa (Uncle Meat), meeting Henry Cow, Bela Bartok or Charles Ives, yet it has a distinct rock flavour, but maybe not in a widely-accepted manner. Thev music is anything but light hearted, rather sombre and oppressive always flirting with dissonances, but never going over the top with them (as was frequently the case with Henry Cow). If I can be so naïve as to remind you that UZ is one of the six signataires of the Rock In Opposition chart, you might just understand that UZ is as much about their music as they are about aesthetics of their music. For this debut album, UZ is a septet and the huge majority of instrument used are of the classical persuasion.

It is of course never easy to describe such difficult music, with either words or images, but the acoustic world that UZ is presenting us is a dark, nightly, rather solemn and sinister underworld made of ambiances and angst of finding sheer horror round the street corner in London’s smog late XIXth century. The 14-min+ Ronde is a wild opener, with the violin taking first role, while the much shorter Carabosse (after the fairy-witch) is more in the space of Berckmans’ bassoon while Daniel Denis’ amazing and inventive drumming and percussions rules the backtracks.

If the first side of the vinyl was mostly Daniel Denis’ works, the second side will be Roger Trigaux’s oeuvre. Not that good old Roger’s “songwriting” is any lighter than Daniel’s, far from it, but his music is clearly more rhythmic and repetitive. As on the previous side, the music hovers between Stravinsky and Balkanic oriented “folk-classical” music with some strong Magma influencers (Denis did play for the group and remains nowadays a friend of the Vander tribe) and represents one of the best example of chamber rock. In some ways their music can be likened to early Gryphon (the acoustic and instrumental nature of the music), but UZ is nothing medieval.

Please note that UZ’s music is not easily accessible to the average Joe and therefore cannot be easily recommended to everyone. But in their genre, this group represents peak of what can be done in that kind of music. And this is only their first album of a lenghty career. Certainly a more influential band than a popular one, UZ is one of the gardians of the progressive music’s integrity. - Review by Sean Trane (Hugues Chantraine)

Track Listings

1. Ronde (14:45)
2. Carabosse (3:40)
3. Docteur Petiot (7:25)
4. Malaise (7:42)
5. Complainte (3:18)

Total Time: 36:50

- Michel Berckmans / bassoon
- Daniel Denis / percussion
- Marcel Dufrane / violin
- Christian Genet / bass
- Patrick Hanappier / violin, viola, pocket cello
- Emmanuel Nicaise / harmonium, spinet
- Roger Trigaux / guitar
Releases information

1977 - as "Univers Zero"
1978 - as "Univers Zero"
1984 - remixed, and renamed as "1313" (Cryonic)
1989 - remixed, and renamed as "1313" (Cuneiform Records Rune 20)


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