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****STUDENT PRICES ADDED!****
CLOSING OUT the week-long 2010 SONIC CIRCUITS FESTIVAL
This is the world's first appearance of these two legendary bands performing on the same bill, and the debut performance for either band in Washington D.C.
"Chamber music for the Apocalypse" Keyboard
"Univers Zero conceptualize the Europe of the late 20th Century...dense, desperate and dark; ...above all beautiful and dramatic; strongly marked by the cultural traditions of Europe. ...Univers Zero may be classified somewhere between Bach and Bartok, Magma and Stravinsky...They represent something new, monumental and important..."
The Belgian group Univers Zero is legendary for its ominous, unsettling and uncompromising musical vision a sound and stance that Keyboard describes as "Chamber music for the Apocalypse." Simultaneously medieval and modern, its distinctive, dark, and elegantly beautiful instrumental music fused classical and rock musics to give birth to an unprecedented and remarkably prescient new musical genre called "chamber rock". UZ's singular sound derives from its unque instrumentation (classical acoustic and electric rock instruments, and electronics), combined with brooding gothic imagery, elements of European folk and other world musics, the iconoclasm and intensity of rock, the relentless sonic experimentation of the avant-garde, and leader/ chief composer/ drummer Daniel Denis' classically inspired writing style, influenced by early 20th Century avant-garde classical composers. The band has remained on the cutting edge of New Music throughout the course of a career that began in the '70s it was one of the 5 founding bands of the “Rock In Opposition” movement [a European coalition for alternative music] and continues today, stretching and disintegrating the boundaries of classical and rock music alike to create a new, vital and unique fusion.Today, several decades afer Univers Zero first forged its unique "chamber rock", critics cite its oeuvre as the precursor to the best avant-garde rock and classical music of the present day, from 'post-rock', associated with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Kayo Dot and other instrumental rock bands to the numerous late 20th/early 21st century classical chamber ensembles who are integrating rock into their repetoire, such as Bang on a Can, Kronos Quartet and others.
"…densely packed with ideas yet paradoxically light in feel, offering up something new for the senses at every turn. The music is both entertainingly accessible and startlingly inventive…
"…they are one of the finest exponents of the RIO sub genre on the market today. Always inventive, always surprising and always just a little off-kilter.
“…full of fire and eclecticism.” Gibraltar
Birthplace of the world-famous Cirque du Soleil, the performing arts troupe who reinvented the circus for the new Millennium, and the critically-acclaimed band Miriodor, whose genre-transcendent musical acrobatics catapult instrumental rock into the 21st Century, Canada’s French-speaking province of Quebec is an artistic hotbed. Looking internally and to Europe for inspiration while attempting to avoid influence from the entertainment industry in the United States, Quebecois artists have produced some of the most radically innovative music and performing arts to emerge from North America. Among the numerous highly original and uncompromising musical cooperatives Ambiance Magnetiques/D.A.M.E., Godspeed You ! Black Emperor, and more operating in French Canada in the decades surrounding the new Millennium, the key musical resource on the internet, the All Music Guide, singled out Miriodor as “…one of the finest bands ever to emerge from the Quebec musique actuele scene.”
UNIVERS ZERO BIOGRAPHY:
Univers Zero was founded in 1974. It evolved out of Necromicon, a group founded by drummer/ percussionist Daniel Denis and trumpet player Claude Deron and named after a locale in H. P. Lovecraft’s work. By May 1974, desiring to celebrate its European roots, the band had renamed itself Univers Zero, after a novel by Belgian writer Jacques Sternberg. During its first five years, Univers Zero was co-led by composers Daniel Denis and Roger Trigaux and released 2 albums: 1313 and Heresie. Its first album, Univers Zero, has been called “1977’s darkest musical vision”[Alternative Press]; continually in high-demand, it was frequently reissued. In 1979, Univers Zero became one of the five founding members of the hugely influential “Rock In Opposition” [RIO] movement, alongside Henry Cow (UK), Etron Fou Le Loublan (France), Stormy Six (Italy), and Zamla (Sweden). Led by Chris Cutler, RIO began as a European-wide coalition for alternative music; RIO later became a stylistic term to describe composition-intensive music that transcended traditional musical genres and included influences from folk musics. The year of RIO’s founding, Univers Zero released its second album, Heresie [1979-Atem, 1991-Cuneiform] widely considered to be one of the darkest and most menacing albums of all time. After Heresie’s release, Trigaux left the band to found Present. Univers Zero continued on with Denis at the helm to release “their most comprehensive catalogue of horrors”[Boston Rock], Ceux Du Dehors [1981-Cryonic, 1992-Cuneiform]; Crawling Wind [1983-Eastern Works-ReR Japan, 2001-Cuneiform], and UZED [1984-ReR, 1988-Cuneiform], whose “violent sound…writhes with a sinister energy” [Goldmine]. Distinctive but never stagnant, UZ’s sound evolved and progressed with each release. In 1987 UZ released its first CD on Cuneiform, beginning a long term relationship with the label. The Cuneiform CD, called Heatwave, featured a more electric sound, prompting Option to comment that “the band sounds much like a mating of Stravinsky, Bartok, the Art Bears, mid-period King Crimson, and Anthony Davis’ Episteme.” Shortly afterwards, in 1987, Denis disbanded Univers Zero for a decade.
During the 1990s and very early 2000s, Cuneiform reissued Univers Zero’s entire back catalogue on CD. The music proved timeless; the reissues received an astounding amount of critical acclaim and helped expand the band’s fan base worldwide. In 1990, Keyboard remarked: “It’s stunning how well Univers Zero’s 1977 debut holds up, musically and sonically, compared to…anything else happening in so-called new music.” With UZ dormant, Denis released two solo albums Les Eaux Troubles (1991) and Sirius and the Ghost (1993) in the US (Cuneiform) and Europe (Musea). As the decade drew to a close, he reformed Univers Zero for a single, sold out appearance at 1997’s FIMAV (Festival International Musique Actuelle Victoriaville) in Canada.
Denis revived UZ at the close of the 20th Century, and proceeded to release a series of recordings that thrilled rock and New Music/classical audiences alike. The first of these recordings, 1999’s The Hard Quest, was greeted as a “Brilliant comeback album by an important avant garde band” [Crohinga Well]. UZ’s next release, 2002’s Rhythmix, featured UZ’s largest lineup and marked a return to more acoustic palettes. It was praised as “a postmodern work of the first order” [Pulse!] and “One of the decade’s masterworks, in any genre.” [Exposé] UZ expanded this acoustic palette with electronics, experimental and jazz elements, and more spacious, melodic compositions for its next, 9th CD, Implosion, released in 2004. AMG noted that “UZ has been producing dark-side chamber music for thirty years, and ‘Implosion’ shows that they’ve not lost their focus or fire.” Implosion’s cover was designed by Belgian filmmaker Philippe Seynaeve, who had begun working on various multimedia projects with the band, one of which was featured at the 2003 Belgian Film Festival at Paris’ Forum des Images. In 2004, in celebration of Univers Zero’s 30th anniversary, Denis assembled a sextet lineup of top-notch musicians and returned the band to regular to performance. Two years later, Univers Zero released its 10th recording and first-ever live CD on Cuneiform, called Live. Reviewing it, Music Street Journal commented: “The first live album from Univers Zero, as good as this one sounds it begs the question, “why did they wait so long?…This disc shows that the band is a force to be reckoned with in the live venue.”
In the past six years, Univers Zero has been an extremely active live presence on the world stage, performing on multiple continents, in addition to composing and recording new music (2010’s Clivages) and releasing numerous archival recordings and reissues on Cuneiform. Since 2004, Univers Zero has performed (often headlining) at many of the world’s most prestigious festivals of New Music, world music, progressive music, and jazz. Performing in Eastern and Western Europe and North America, Univers Zero has played in the Czech Republic (Alternativa Festival 2006, Prague’s Palac Akropolis 2009); Poland (Wroclaw’s Energy & Sound Festival 2009); France (MIMI Festival 2004; Les Tritonales 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008; Winter Festival Le Garric 2005, Cap Decouverte Rock in Oppostion Festival 2009, Nancy’s Jazz Pulsations Festival 2009); Germany (Art Rock/ Freakshow Festival, 2004, Linz Posthof 2009, Dresden’s Jazzwelten 2009); Mexico (Baja Prog Festival 2007, Mexico City’s Teatro de La Ciudad 2009 , Ecatep 2009, Puebla’s Baroque Fringe Festival 2009); Portugal (Gouevia Artrock Festival 2005), Canada (Le Festival des Musiques Progressives de Montreal 2008) and the USA (NEARfest 2004, The Netherlands (Music Meeting Festival-2004).
It has also played numerous recent shows in Belgium, including at Brussells’ Centre Culturel Jacques Franck, Les Halles De Schaerbeek, Hasselt’ Belgie Kunstcentrum, Mouscron’s Centre Culturel M. Staquet, La Louvière’s Théatre Communal De La Louvière, Verviers’ Spirit of 66, Courcelles’ Centre Culturel “La Posterie” 2008, Nivelle’s Centre Culturel Le Waux-Hall (2009), Saint-Gilles’ Centre Culturel Jacques Francq, and festivals at Bruxelles Chapelle Station, Audi Jazz Festival, Prog Festival, and 2010’s Alter Ego Festival in Soignes. On Sept. 25, 2010, Univers Zero will headline at the 10th Sonic Circuits Festival, Washington DC’s premier festival for experimental music.
More than three decades after it was first formed, Univers Zero continues to evolve, expanding and experimenting with the boundaries of New Music, and, to quote Exposé, ceaselessly “proving themselves to be one of the best and most important groups on the planet.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON UNIVERS ZERO, SEE:
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With all this activity in terms of releases, it is easy to overlook the fact that Univers Zero has not had a release of new material in over 5 years. Clivages is that release, but much more importantly, it is its first studio release in over 20 years - since 1986's Heatwave - to feature the energy and sound of a working, rehearsing, on-going live ensemble performing together in the studio. Clivages features Univers Zero’s current line-up, which has been playing concerts and working together for quite some time now: Michel Berckmans (bassoon, English horn, oboe), Kurt Budé (clarinet, bass clarinet, alto sax), Pierre Chevalier (keyboards), Daniel Denis (drums, sampler), Dimitri Evers (bass), Martin Lauwers (violin) with guest Andy Kirk (who was a member of the band in 1979-1983, 1985-86 and has been an ongoing guest in performances for the last several years as time allows) (guitar and percussion).
Clivages represents both a consolidation of sound from Univers Zero’s past 30 years of work, as well as some steps in new directions, as befitting a band that has made forward motion part of its DNA. Most notably, Denis has opened up the compositional duties to other members of the band, allowing Berckmans, Budé and Kirk to contribute some very strong pieces to the UZ 'book' and giving Clivages a sound that while recognizable as Univers Zero, also contains some real surprises. Univers Zero is rightly famous for finding the perfect balance between classical and rock influences and drawing on musicians from both worlds. In terms of this, Clivages is possibly its best-balanced release. It is perhaps also the album that allows these two sides to separate more than any other album in their catalog, as the title ("cleavages") implies. Clivages features chamber works scored solely for the trio of strings, reeds and double reeds within the larger group. But Univers Zero’s rock side has certainly not been ignored; in particular, Andy Kirk's piece "Warrior" harkens back to the wild, barely-contained, electric sound of Heatwave. Clivages is a tremendously strong work from a band that has an astoundingly full catalog of essential discs!
“…over the last three decades the ensemble has lived up to the dictionary meaning of avant-garde: those in the arts who create or apply new or experimental ideas and techniques.
“I first learned of…Univers Zero when its drummer and founder, Daniel Denis, was featured in MD’s February 2010 issue. I was drawn in immediately by Denis’ carve-your-own-path aesthetic and the fact that he seemed to give equal weight to composition and spontaneity…. The thing that struck me immediately about UZ’s wonderful slow-burning new album, Clivages…is that this is no attempted merger of “polite” chamber instrumentation with “nasty” rock ‘n’ roll, as so many “let’s tack a kit onto an orchestra” projects turn out to be. No, the music is at its very core conceived for a sensitive, versatile unit a band that happens to contain a quirky blend of instruments. Clivages prowls the low end with electric bass, bassoon, and Denis’s big drum sound. On the storm-bringing “Warrior,” Denis works huge tom blasts and cymbal-crash thunder… He’s full of surprises throughout and never short of compelling.”
“…this is one of their more accessible releases. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still Univers Zero… it seems to be fairly easy to latch onto melodies and something resembling a hook throughout the disc. I like this a lot and it might have two of my all time favorite Univers Zero tracks on it.
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This CD is an archival project that documents the band in live performance during the mid-late 1980s. The band’s 11th CD, it is the only release of live material from the period during which Univers Zero recorded the two studio releases UZED [1984-Cryonic, 1988-Cuneiform], and Heatwave [1987-Cuneiform]. During that time, with Denis working with some of best musicians of Europe’s avant-garde scene, Univers Zero created what was perhaps the boldest, most sonically powerful and above all, most overtly ROCK-oriented music of its lengthy career. The stellar performances and astounding music on Relaps are proof positive that Univers Zero was one of and perhaps the most adventurous rock band then playing on the international rock stage. Relaps captures the live band that caught Cuneiform’s ear more than 20 years ago, leading it to sign Univers Zero and release its 6th album, Heatwave, thus beginning a fruitful relationship that continues to the present day.
“…First up are a pair of performances from a quintet version of UZ …What is so striking about these tracks is the stark difference between this band and the previous version that recorded Ceux du Dehors. This is a much more electric UZ. …more powerful range of dynamics, without changing the overall sophistication and scope of either arranging or playing.
“…this disc …contains live performances by the angriest incarnations the 1984 quintet and the 1985-86 septet of Daniel Denis’ creature, one of the defining entities of Rock In Opposition… The material, mastered from clear enough archival tapes, comprises exciting renditions of classics such as “Présage” and “The Funeral Plain”, pieces delivered with a mixture of high-level technical proficiency, exquisite classical sensitiveness and…scarcely repressed fury…I feel older by the minute, yet the goosebumps that came up during some of these executions, most notably in the fantastic rhythmic unassailability of “Heatwave” (the tune), are the same of a couple of decades ago. What a group. And they’re still here… “
“…Belgium’s Univers Zero have always been at the forefront of the progressive rock scene. … This is the “electric” UZ, far removed from the acoustic chamber rock found on their debut. The fidelity is amazing… the group’s dark, moody arrangements have been reproduced with exceptional clarity. …it’s bizarre that Univers Zero aren’t mentioned greater frequency. …”
“… Recorded over twenty years ago, this music hasn’t aged a bit. In fact, it is hard to think of something that surpasses it in terms of modernity! … This is music that constantly strikes you, …a true storm … (9.5/10)”
“…like some sort of malevolent creature from the underground, they keep coming back. …
More than 30 years ago, after several years of work and rehearsals, a group of seven unknown, mostly Belgian musicians gathered in a small basement studio to record their first album. This album was untitled, the cover bearing only the band’s name, but the catalogue number on the first, limited pressing 1313 would in later years be used as its name. The power and originality of this album the first recording by the band - stunned listeners at the time; on first hearing it in 1977, Gérard Nguyn, publisher of Atem, France’s leading magazine of avant-garde music at the time, reissued it as the inaugural release on his newly-launched record label.
This reissue by Cuneiform restores Univers Zero’s debut album to its original look the cover reproduces that of the original pressing while enhancing the album’s original sound. Remixed and remastered from the original 1977 multi-track tapes, the nuances of Univers Zero’s unique, primarily acoustic and classical instrumentation come to the fore. The album remains a seminal album in the history of rock, as well as a lodestar for the future of classical music. By the close of the 20th century, chamber rock’s influence on avant-garde rock would extend from the French-speaking world to the rest of Europe, Scandinavia, North America, Japan, and beyond. Today, Univers Zero's music continues to inject new vigor and life into classical music and avant-garde rock scenes alike.
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“Despite occasional stylistic links, Univers Zero always spoke (and continues to speak) with its own voice. This welcome reissue confirms, once again, that in 1977 a nearly unheard-of group was creating a new kind of chamber music that, in its inclusion of rock instrumentation and the occasional rock stance, would be a blueprint for classical music of the 21st century.” [FULL REVIEW]
“ALBUM OF THE WEEK...Released in 1977, it was astonishing then: today, it sounds like the hidden source for every one of today's avant-garde rock bands. …Each piece magnificently refuses to deviate from its mood, its tense, thrilling, growling, restrained focus...Univers Zero are a revelation …”
For this stunning recording of live performances, Denis assembled a sextet lineup of top-notch musicians that included himself (drums, percussion), Michel Berckmans (oboe, English horn, bassoon, melodica), Kurt Budé (clarinets, tenor saxophone), Martin Lauwers (violin), Eric Plantain (electric bass), and Peter Van Den Berghe (keyboards).
“… this new live disc is simply the most revitalizing rejuvenating UZ experience I’ve had in years.
"This is arguably the most high-octane release ever for Univers Zero, a band that now has ten CDs to its credit and a history stretching back to the mid-'70s. …
“…This is as good as it gets folks, a live album from six superb musicians, playing music that is so far removed from mainstream culture, yet so accessible and enjoyable to anyone willing to give their complex yet rich style a chance. Highly, highly recommended! … [5 stars]”
“[4 stars] …Univers Zero…play all original music which partakes of Pink Floyd-type spacey rock, avant new music techniques, soundtrack scores and fusion jazz, among other things… How come I hadn't heard of them before this?”
“… At the time punk rock conquered the world, a bunch of Belgian musicians invented their very own musical universe that after all those years still is far from outdated…Univers Zero speaks first of all with a very original voice… for those who cannot visit their concerts let this new CD be a proof that Univers Zero still is a very hot band.”
“... Univers Zero's importance in the history of modern chamber music is once again confirmed by this, one of their overall best albums…”
“It is amazing to be able to hear a band like this in our times...Absolutely recommendable for fans of instrumental progressive, avant garde and experimental rock and fusion.”
“Belgian Rock-In-Opposition acolytes Univers Zero…encapsulate its sound and climactically centered tactics on this wondrously recorded live set. … Spanning three decades, the sextet’s horns-strings-keys-rhythms makeup is largely about melodic overtones coupled with driving pulses and complex time signatures. The sextet blends a radical approach to familiar progressive-rock musings with horns and strings that occasionally drive the rhythmic pulses with booming unison lines. There are gentle moments…delicate chamber passages with ethereal treatments. No doubt, this newly issued disc will stand as one of the ensemble’s finest recorded documents to date.” [Full Review]
This album features: Michael Berckmans [oboe, english horn, bassoon], Serge Bertocchi [alto, soprano, sopranissimo saxes, tubax], Ariane De Bievre [flute, piccolo], Aurelia Boven [cello], Daniel Denis [drums, percussion, all keyboards and samplers], Dirk Descheemaeker [clarinet, bass clarinet], Bart Maris [trumpet, flugelhorn], Eric Platain [bass], Christophe Pons [acoustic guitar], Bart Quartier [marimba, glockenspiel], and Igor Semenoff [violin]
“... Implosion is a highly enjoyable and mature work from these master musicians, and a true progression of sorts for the band. … Highly recommended! Score: 4/1/2 stars”
“…Univers Zero returns almost entirely to their acoustic roots …with a refined and tempered equivalent of the relentless, prolonged gloom of early releases such as 1313 and Heresie. … Univers Zero's excellence lies in its continuing ability to synthesize medieval forms, instrumental prog rock and modern classical dissonance with a splash of jazz and a taste for the suggestively macabre. The group continues to produce creative, highly inventive music, and plays it with precision and panache. Highly recommended for the adventurous listener. [Rating: 4/5 stars]”
“The ongoing musical adventures of Daniel Denis continue forward into new territory with Implosion… It’s easily one of the top ten recordings and performances for this year.”
“This CD…features 49 minutes of dark-side electrified chamber music. …Univers Zero exists as a celebration of all that’s unsettling and unnerving… a reaffirmation that everything is just an inch away from collapse (or implosion). … Belgian band Univers Zero has been producing dark-side chamber music for thirty years, and “Implosion” shows that they’ve not lost their focus or fire.”
“Lots of new directions here: Univers Zero have opened the doors to a more linear, almost elegiac juxtapositions of influences, yet they still hold on to their basic personality. “Implosion” optimizes the cohesion of the scores into an utmost gratification for the hearing… theirs is a path no other group will be able to walk on with the same intensity.”
“The band is…known for their monolithic, extraordinarily dark and moody brand of instrumental rock; but more and more they have been ditching the creepy horror-movie atmospheres in favor of more dynamic electrified chamber music sound. The evolution is most clearly evident in Implosion… easily my favorite of 21st-century Univers Zero. Compared to previous efforts, it’s practically cheerful’ while some of the interludes are ominous noise experiments…the compositions proper are surprisingly and addictively melodic. …Denis’ compositions have never been tighter…and the expanded instrumental palette already evident in Rhythmix is used to even better effect here. … this is the most accessible UZ yet, and not at the expense of depth. … Univers Zero is still a juggernaut of a band. Implosion is their best effort since those good old days.”
“…Today three decades later Denis continues to push the boundaries of music, crafting challenging and yet ultimately satisfying musical compositions. …Implosion…in many respects continues their relentless quest in creating dark and moody atmospheric pieces that on one hand summon images of gothic horror…and on the other play off spacious, almost funky rhythm… Univers Zero never cease to challenge the listener one moment, startle the next and still exude a satisfying smile at the musicianship. …They’re magicians at utilizing musical space …. Listening to The Hard Quest and the new Implosion have broadened my musical appreciation skills in ways I could never have imagined.”
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“Univers Zero may be the best band you have never heard...Their musical vision is unremittingly ironic, full of deliberately sour passages, black humor, industrial evocations, and surrealistic fantasies…listening to Univers Zero is a glimpse of something very special, out beyond our familiar shores.”
“This sublime CD’s one of the primest exemplars of the fact that… progressive music’s long held hidden some of the finest neoclassical works available…With this work, UZ indisputable pushes effortlessly into the front ranks. ….Denis was superb before, he’s unbelievable now. One of the decade’s masterworks, in any genre.”
“Earlier this year I wrote about ‘Crawling Wind’ ..their latest release…[is] in the same unique dark style and with the same imaginative mix of instruments. …The album begins with a bright, loud, rock-type number called Terres Noires with Celtic and French influences. …A timpani solo with percussive effects turns into a troubadour number a track that could almost be early music, and this is followed by The Invisible Light… with a beautiful oboe solo from Michel Berckmans … The CD… finishes with a tiny repeat of Reve Cyclique, fading back in for just a few seconds, and then out again presumably to send us away with the sound of that cyclic dream, tumbling on through the cosmos…”
“…daring, contemporary, strangely melodious and attractive. To be explored, undoubtedly, by all who fear not the challenges of the art.”
“…the feel of a conceptual opus is achieved. …The results are…an excellent rewarding album, full of variety and invention, in fact a veritable feast for the “twist and turn” fanatic, and one that is both familiar and fresh. There are old themes, and also unheard diversions, sounding like classic Between at one point, almost Henry Cow at another. It’s not so dark as some, yet I’d almost guarantee that fans of this Zeuhl/RIO hybrid form should not be disappointed.”
“…Denis surges onward with an extended ensemble. …the chamber and goth feel presides but the added instrumentation offers a polytonal outlook, comprised of a multi-layered slant. They pursue darkly hued textures amid weaving chamber-like passages and melodically-tinged themes. …There’s a whole lot of goodness going on… The musicians instill a sense of urgency and motion throughout, whereas the album title effectively suggests a rhythmic matrix! Either way, this recording marks a significant milestone for this time-honored aggregation! (Zealously recommended.)
“To get a picture of UZ’s sound, imagine if in the middle of their Red or Starless and Bible Black phase, King Crimson was transported back to medieval times and had to play their music with period instruments. … The music is so complex, so tightly played, that it is obvious each note from the ensemble was meticulously crafted and placed by Denis, yet it rounds a compositional turn, paradoxically carrying the feel of avant-garde freeform improvisation. With this musical strategy, Univers Zero offers a continuous stream of delightful listening surprises from each of the CD’s 13 compositions through many, many plays.”
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“The Hard Quest…is an important event… Those stumbling into their gothiky universe for the first time may find their compositions… involve a studious unraveling of classical rock themes, where not a chink of improvised light is allowed into the group’s creative chamber. Once your ears become accustomed to the gloom, though, Univers Zero’s music can be blindingly illuminating.”
“The fall of Rome? The parting of the Red Sea? What else can compare with the monumental occurrence (after 12 years!) of a new slab of Univers Zero?… The Hard Quest is a masterwork!…this CD will take top position on my Best-of-’99 list at year’s end.”
“Dark, complex, and full of compositional fury, the latest release from the legendary “chamber rock” band will surely be remembered as one of the best albums this year…are filled with all the dark splendor and rich arrangements that this venerable outfit is known for. If Stravinsky were alive today, he’d be in a band like this one.”
“Brilliant comeback album by an important avant garde band.
“’The Hard Quest’ is as much classical music as rock… The overall sound is quite dark and ominous, the imagery gothic. Always atmospheric, the feeling is of a relaxed Enid meeting American minimalist John Adams… In the broad spectrum of what progressive music should be, this is cutting edge… Excellent.”
“…my admiration for Univers Zero was total because they seemed to be able to conjure that awful sense of existential dread we enjoyed from King Crimson…but…did not require electric instruments and Marshall speaker cabinets to do it. …The secret was musical architecture and selection of weapons…After 5 records that never let a fan down…here’s a new CD, once again a solid, brilliantly ugly addition to the band’s C.V. …turn it up! … the Univers Zero franchise is alive and well in Denis’ capable hands…Welcome back, messieurs, we did miss you.”
“With vice-grip concentration and unnerving audacity, this Belgian quintet offers the forbidden fruit of classical music by performing diabolic dervishes, sabre dances, and tantalizing tangos… And while ensembles like the Kronos and Brodsky quartets have filtered into the rock world by way of guest appearances or loosely adapting rock music, Univers Zero have been single-handedly bridging the two disparate worlds by integrating a frontline rhythm section into their dark scores. And what a powerhouse pulse machine it is... The theme music for horror films from the likes of Dario Argento may be the closest links, yet Univers Zero are wise to the ways and minimalist means of Reich, Riley and Glass (and most the of the 20th century’s finest composers.) …their music has a mystery and a power that’s yet to be discovered by the outer stretches of goth and gloom lovers. Daring and delightful.”
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“Heatwave … is an intricate and monumental piece of work…Univers Zero play the most complex, rehearsal-intensive music since the heyday of progressive rock…The band remains as morbid as ever…. Univers Zero, without any overt politics, stick to an extreme program: mulling over the choice between survival (for whatever it’s worth) or destruction (that’s all, folks) as close as music can capture it."
“…the band sounds much like a mating of Stravinsky, Bartok, the Art Bears, mid-period King Crimson, and Anthony Davis’ Episteme. Throughout their existence, Zero has played this highly uplifting material with an ear for stunning orchestration.”
“I’ve been salivating over the very thought of this record ever since I received word of its imminent release. When it arrived, it proved to be every bit as good and then some…For fans, Heatwave is a must; for the uninitiated, it is a superb introduction to the music of Univers Zero.”
“Univers Zero take the rock/chamber music foundation laid by Henry Cow in the early ‘70s and build upon it…the instrumentalists’ adherence to classical technique composition precludes categorization as fusion.…Challenging, but never difficult, aggressive, but never abrasive, Heatwave is a complex, densely textured, and electrifying work of art.”
“Hard to say exactly what tradition the extraordinary LP arises out of. Some of the odd-meter riffs on electric guitar and trap set are reminiscent of mid-‘70s British progressive work by Gentle Giant and others, but the kaleidoscopic development of the phrases through meticulous orchestration is almost Stravinskian, the willingness to repeat simple material is a tip of the hat to minimalism, and some of the sounds throughout might have been borrowed from the Residents. The mood is dark and intense throughout..a tightly controlled developmental logic is always at work… A must for lovers of adventurous music.”
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“…one of the most important groups of the 1980s ...dense, desperate and dark; nevertheless, the music of UZ is above all beautiful and dramatic, strongly marked by the cultural traditions of Europe…UZED is a rare, intense, and magnanimous piece of work, and it is absolutely compulsory for everyone who’s had enough of the monotony of Laibach, who’s played their Magma records to shreds, and/or who would have wanted there to be a bit more electric bass and drums on Bartok’s string quartets.”
“Univers Zero is a showcase for the compositions of percussionist Daniel Denis. …One thing that separates these artists’ work from the work of more conventional composers is the absence of filler….we’re not sure where Cuneiform Records is finding this stuff, but we hope they reach some sort of audience with it.”
“This is not polite chamber music… but an intense, often violent sound that writhes with a sinister energy…The opening “Presage” may remind listeners of King Crimson’s “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic” series, but…Univers Zero’s musical vision is truly dark, lacking the romanticism that hides withing Robert Fripp’s compositions…Not music for the faint of heart, which is probably as a good a definition of rock ‘n’ roll as any.”
“an inventive quintet who never fail to impress with their jagged time lapsed piano, dramatic time signatures, bass, reeds, deep cello and busy drums. The music drives along moonless avenues, soundtracks to a world beyond tomorrow.”
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“… Univers Zero are beside Magma and Faust [as] one of the most influential European continental groups of so called intellectual rock. Their influence can be heard from the numbers of newer European groups like Maximalist, Pako Alto and Cro Magnon to American Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic and Miriodor.”
“… Cerebral, complex and rewarding, this is a welcome reminder of the no-boundaries approach that informed the very best of the genuinely experimental bands that sprang up under the early-70s progressive rock banner.”
“The path of innovation and brilliance. It is a treacherous trail upon which precious few dare to tread…
Originally released by Recommended Records (RR ten point five) and distributed with the 1st 500 copies of Ceux Du Dehors, this single is now included on Cuneiform's Ceux du Dehor CD. It features Daniel Denis [drums, percussion, voice, harmonium], Andy Kirk [harmonium, organ, voice, piano, Yamaha CP70] and Guy Segers [bass, clarinet, voice]
This album features:
“If Stravinsky had a rock band, it would sound like this. Blazing, white hot, medieval.”
“…a dark record, utilizing the triple-fusion approach of the Rock-in-Opposition sound (jazz, rock and classical avant-garde), with the classical influence being the most dominant. The tense and brooding influence of the baroque school is felt on every track….The erratic rhythms created by the bass and percussion, as well as the complex arrangement provided by the exceptional composition, give this otherwise medieval sound its twentieth century flavor.”
“…this is probably their most comprehensive catalog of horrors, from the ominous minimalist pedal points in “Combat” to the ghostly improvised droning of “La Musique d’Erich Zann”…to the grotesque bassoon/viola tradeoffs in “Bonjour Chez Vous.”
By the late 1980s, Miriodor a trio after Emond left the band began to attract worldwide attention. Chris Cutler published a Miriodor song in England’s ReR Quarterly. The US-based Cuneiform label signed Miriodor and released all of the band’s subsequent recordings, beginning in 1988 with the band’s 2nd LP, the self-titled Miriodor. Immediately afterwards, Miriodor performed at FIMAV, the prestigious international festival of New Music/Musique Actuelle held in Victoriaville, Quebec. It subsequently toured France and Belgium and, in 1991, released its 3rd record, Third Warning.
In late 1993, guitarist Bernard Falaise joined Miriodor, bringing to the band a sharper, ‘grittier’, more rock-based sound. Between then and Miriodor’s 1995 recording, Elastic Juggling, saxist Hudon left the band. Elastic Juggling received widespread critical acclaim; All Music Guide gave it four stars, praising its “concise, intricately arranged compositions and sudden shifts in mood from one typically short track to the next...”. Its accessible yet sophisticated, genre-defiant music appealed to a wide range of festivals, and soon Miriodor played at the International Computer Music Congress; made its USA debut in 1996 at Baltimore’s progressive rock festival, ProgScape, and played at the Montreal Jazz Fest. In 2000, Miriodor played at Edgefest, a festival of avant-garde music held in Ann Arbor, MI.
In 2002, Miriodor released Mekano, its 5th album. It marked the debut of Miriodor’s current lineup: a new bassist and keyboard player, Nicolas Masino, joined long-time members Globensky (keyboards), Leclerc (drums) and Falaise (guitar). While the quartet jointly produced the band’s compositions, it invited a trio of guests - Marie-Chantal Leclair (saxes), Marie-Soliel Bélanger (violin), and Némo Venba (trumpet) to augment the band’s sound. Widely praised by specialty rock critics as one of the year’s best, Mekano received a perfect rating - 5 stars - from Sea of Tranquility. Alternative Press noted that “what makes the current band so impressive is the graceful, almost effortless way they execute all their complex musical moves, with scarcely a trace of irony or self-conscious cleverness.”
Immediately following Mekano’s release, Miriodor performed at the 4th annual NEARfest, ‘the most prestigious progressive music festival in the world.’ Performing before an audience of 1,850 in the Trenton War Memorial Theatre on June 29th 2002, Miriodor was the festival’s surprise hit, converting hundreds of first-time listeners into devoted fans. Miriodor’s NearFEST appearance established the band’s reputation as world-class performers, and proved that their witty and sophisticated tunes were both accessible and thrilling to audiences typically drawn to more mainstream music. Miriodor returned to NearFEST by request to perform at the 2003 pre-show. Additional festival appearances followed, with Miriodor playing again at Edgefest in 2004, appearing as a headliner at Portugal’s sold-out 2005 Gouevia Art Rock Festival, and performing at the 2005 Guelph Jazz Fest.
In 2005, Cuneiform released Miriodor’s 6th release, a double CD consisting of the band’s new studio recording, Parade, on Disc 1, and a live recording of their 2002 NEARfest performance on Disc 2. Italian critic Massimo Ricci called the release “easily…the best avant-progressive music I’ve heard in the new millennium.” Parade featured Miriodor’s well-established performance ensemble - the Miriodor quartet and long-standing guests Belanger and Leclair - as well as a very special guest who was one of Miriodor’s musical heroes and a founding member of the RIO movement: the late Lars Hollmer, who recently died, on Christmas 2008. The Swedish Grammy-award-winning composer and accordionist/keyboardist had composed, co-composed and performed on 3 tracks for Parade for an immensely successful collaboration. Disc 2 of Miriodor’s 2005 release, Live at NEARfest 2002, was the band’s first live release; All Music Guide noted, "The biggest kick might be hearing the band win over the crowd as the set progresses...the 1,800-plus audience seems to realize what a phenomenal performance it is witnessing, and erupts with thunderous applause." The double-disc release prompted Exposé magazine to note that: “Miriodor is certainly one of the hottest bands in the business right now on Cuneiform. ….With these two new recordings Miriodor stands as the premier ensemble from their home country and on an international stage.”
Following the release of Parade + Live at NEARfest, Miriodor began working on new material and playing twice at the Le Festival des Musiques Progressives de Montreal (FMPM), French Canada’s annual international festival of progressive rock.
Miriodor’s new CD, titled Avanti!, is the band’s seventh release. When asked to supply some thoughts on Avanti!, band member Pascal Globensky replied:
"Fortuitously placed under the sign of number seven, Miriodor’s seventh album contains seven songs which all last seven minutes or more, for a total of 60 minutes of dense and twisted music, à la Miriodor. The band, now in its 30th year of existence, has attained a level of cohesion and complicity that sometimes baffles even its more recent members, those who have only been around for 15 years or so... At the core of this production are the usual partners in crime : Bernard Falaise (guitars, stringed instruments, etc.), Pascal Globensky (keyboards, synthesizer, piano), Rémi Leclerc (drums, percussion, sampler) and Nicolas Masino (bass, keyboards). On this album, we tried to develop our playing as a quartet, so about half the album has no outside guests, no sequences and just a few overdubs. On the other pieces we are joined by Pierre "The Preacher" Labbé on tenor and barytone saxes, regular acolyte Marie-Chantal Leclair on soprano saxophone, and Maxime St-Pierre on trumpet."
Avanti! celebrates the Miriodor quartet and key collaborators as the band approaches its third decade. Whereas the music is typically ‘Miriodor’ each tune a sonic mini-movie that explores a mood, theme or idea (often reflected in the song titles), the sound is fresh, incorporating new sonic and stylistic elements. Miriodor’s albums since Jonglieres typically featured numerous guests; however, Avanti! contains several tracks featuring only the quartet, undubbed. Avanti! also differs from prior albums, in that Miriodor here handles all mixing “in house”. Falaise did the mixing and production for Avanti!, adding innovative touches that add a new dimension to Miriodor’s music without overwhelming the integrity of the underlying musical work.
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Above Photos Courtesy of Jaak Geebelens, 2009. [see more]
Cuneiform Records is honored to have released and/or reissued the following titles by Univers Zero:
Univers Zero Albums
“..as exemplified by Side One’s “La Faulx,” this is “Gothic Chamber music” at its best…by any standard, I hold this band in the highest esteem…”
“Chamber music for the Apocalypse. This talented quintet finds the right balance between post-Schoenberg and postmodernism…a group of admirable, though dark, vision.”
"...this is Univers Zero’s best record ever since the band’s reformation in the mid-‘90s. …this one…grabs me and moves me: more troubling, more experimental …with a strong human elements. … Top-rate avant-prog and a great Univers Zero release by any standard. …”
“… It’s always amazing how dark, brooding, and often times heavy this ‘RIO/chamber rock’ institution can get, most of the time utilizing acoustic instruments… …the world of Univers Zero… is often times unsettling, chaotic, and ominous music, yet there lies a uncurrent of extreme beauty…
“… It’s a good reminder that Univers Zero was ahead of its time, even if it was (and remains) lost between serious and popular music.”
“…Relaps is an essential piece of work showing that the band’s most exceptional moments were indeed live. … Great stuff!!”
Univers Zero 1313
“Released in 1977, [their debut] was astonishing then; today, it sounds like the hidden source for every one of today’s avant-garde rock bands…Univers Zero are a revelation…“
"UZ's music was an antecendent for the kind of instrumental and stylistic interspersion considered normal today by groups including Bang on a Can and Alarm Will Sound. Henry Cow's complex, abstruse writing meets Bartok, Stravinsky, Messiaen and Ligeti, but with a hint of early music, especially in UZ's use of spinet and harmonium. ...This welcome reissue confirms, once again, that in 1977 a nearly unheard-of group was creating a new kind of chamber music that, in its inclusion of rock instrumentation and the occasional rock stance, would be a blueprint for classical music of the 21st century."
"...first time listeners will be stunned that this music is over 30 years old. ...Highly recommended!"
“It’s stunning how well Univers Zero’s 1977 debut holds up, musically and sonically, compared to…anything else happening in so-called new music...”
"Having seen this band live once myself, I can only say that the intense sounds captured in the studio take on new life on a concert stage. ... If you didn't know better, you would swear that this was a perfectly crafted studio album that took years to record. Nope. This is as good as it gets folks, a live album from six superb musicians, playing music that is so far removed from mainstream culture, yet so accessible and enjoyable to anyone willing to give their complex yet rich style a chance. Highly, highly recommended! … [5 stars]”
"4 stars. While this is Univers Zero's first live CD, they have done nine previous albums for Cuneiform. How come I hadn't heard of them before this?”
"Apart from monster playing and arrangements, the recorded sound could not be better. It’s immediate and lush, detailed and unified, giving free reign to timbre without sacrificing the clarity of any formal or structural concerns."
"49 minutes of dark-side electrified chamber music. ..."Implosion" shows that they've not lost their focus or fire"
"...stark, violent and imagistic...it's a more accessible tour de force...easily one of the top ten recordings and performances this year"
"while some of the interludes are ominous noise experiments..the compositions proper are surprisinglyand addictively melodic. ...this is the most accessible UZ yet, and not at the expense of depth."
"...a thirteen-part cycle that, were there any justice in the world, would stand the stalwart Daniel Denis alongside Kancheli, Kurtag, Takemitsu, Oe, Nyman, and others more prominently displayed. ...With this work, UZ undisputably pushes effortlessly into the front ranks. ...Denis was superb before, he's unbelievable now. One of the decade's masterworks, in any genre."
"With electric bass its only real concession to modernity, Univers Zero weds the pluck of harpsichords and honk of bassoons, bass clarients and oboes to com,positions that seem to speak from another time, yet the whiplash rhythm shifts and expolosive melodic declarations mark this as a postmodern work of the first order."
"...while ensembles like the Kronos and Brodsky quartets have filtered into the rock world by way of guest appearances or loosely adapting rock music, Univer Zero have been single-handedly bridging the two disparate worlds by integrating a frontline rhythm section into their dark scores. ...their music has a mystery and a power that's yet to be discovered..."
"...Univers Zero is back in a big way with a stunning new release, proving themselves to be one of the most important groups on the planet. The sound harkens back to their first album...The almost fragile construction, with its exquisite compositional structures and web-like texxtures are all here, but coupled with a more mature and sophisticated approach to sonority and color."
"...an intricate and monumental piece of work."
"Hard to say exactly what tradition this extraordinary LP arises out of. Some of the odd-meter riffs on electric guitar...are reminiscent of mid-'70s British progressive work by Gentle Giant and others, but the kaleidoscopic development of the phrses through meitculous orchestration is almost Stravinskian, the willingness to repeat simple material is a tip of the hat to minimalism, and some of the sounds throughout might have been borrwed from the Residnens. ...A must for lovers of adventurous music."
"UZED is a rare, intense, and magnanimous piece of work, and absolutely compulsory for everyone who's had enough of the monotony of Laibach, who's played their Magma records to shreds, and/or who would have wanted there to be a bit more elecvtirc bass and drums on Bartok's string quartets."
"This is not polite chamber music...but an intense, often violent sound that writhes with sinister energy.... Not music for the faint of heart, which is probably as good a definition of rock'n'roll as any."
"...their most comprehensive catalogue of horrors."
"If Stravinsky had a rock band, it would sound like this. Blazing, white hot, medieval."
"...a dark record, utilyzing the triple-fusion approach of the Rock-in-Opposition sound (jazz, rock and calassical avante-garde), with the classical inlfuence being the most dominant. ...The erratic rhythms..as well as the complex arrangement...give this otherwise medieval sound its twentieth century flavor."
Cuneiform Records is honored to have released and/or reissued the following titles by Miriodor:
For more information on these titles, click on any cover below: