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Univers Zero: “Rouages”

From the album The Hard Quest (1999)

Since the 1970s, the Belgian band Univers Zero has been forging an idiosyncratic synthesis of pseudo-medievalism, dark metal, and 20th- century chamber music. (The band’s homepage bears the motto, “If Stravinsky had a rock band, it would sound like this.”) A vital part of the important and under-appreciated European progressive rock scene, Univers Zero has maintained an unmistakable sound over 35 years of activity and a constantly shifting roster of musicians. 

The band’s first albums, 1313 (originally released as Univers Zero in 1977) and Heresie (1979) were anchored by drummer Daniel Denis and guitarist Roger Trigaux. Their distinctive chamber-rock sound emerged with the addition of Michel Berckmans (oboe and bassoon) and keyboardist Emmanuel Nicaise. Univers Zero made a name for itself in the early 1970s by opening for French prog-juggernaut Magma. Later in the decade they toured with another pioneering group, Art Zoyd, and became active in the “Rock in Opposition" (RIO) movement, a cabal of mutually supportive progressive/experimental bands active from 1978.

Trigaux left the group at the end of the decade in order to start his own band, Present. Univers Zero’s three albums from the 1980s, Ceux de dehors (1981), Uzed (1984), and Heatwave (1987), marked a shift to a darker tone and a heavier reliance on electronic instruments. After Heatwave, Denis left Univers Zero to pursue a solo career and join up with Art Zoyd for a number of releases. With his departure, the band was effectively mothballed. After a 12-year hiatus, Denis and Berckmans brought Univers Zero back to life in 1999, releasing three new albums over the next five years. A live album, a set of archival recordings from the mid-1980s, and a new studio album have appeared since then.

Drawn from The Hard Quest, the album that launched the group’s third incarnation, the song “Rouages” (meaning cogs or wheels) evokes parallels with the jagged chamber works of Stravinsky or Bela Bartok, the gothic cadences of Dead Can Dance, and the imagined medieval music of Moondog.

Univers Zero

Played 691 time(s).

October 25, 2012, 9:19am

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