Univers Zero Univers Zero

Lately, many American groups, such as Zs, Kayo Dot and Normal Love, have been birthing Tetsuo-like sonic creatures — all metallic limbs and brash modern classical appendages jutting forth from a deformed prog rock body. Univers Zero’s 1977 debut cast a dark foreshadow on this recent trend. Spinet, harmonium, bassoon and strings paint dissonant filigrees over a doom-laden and decidedly rock instrumental backdrop. The music is consistently ominous, always hinting at the heaviness of metal but never pummelling the listener. And when it occasionally gets dense, it’s a slab of strange, ingenious orchestration you hear, rather than a simple overdriven amp sound. The jagged melodies actually recall a perversely gothic version of contemporaries Henry Cow. Yet, rather than building on disjointed convulsive gestures, UZ’s compositional structures surge and ooze. There is still the interplay of uneven rhythmical patterns, and free-jazz informed scribbling, but with greater fluidity. Amidst the musical complexity, and despite their jazz-fusion roots, one is never battling against overly sober virtuosic displays of musicianship. As with the younger generation that have inherited this approach, there are sufficient amounts of psychedelic mystery and rough edges to keep prog haters engaged. (Cuneiform)