Though quality is a byword and complexity a given, no one really knows quite what to look forward to each time Daniel Denis and Univers Zero issue a new release. This is because Denis is a true artist of stratospheric skills and doesn't stand still nor does he enlist simplistic bandmates. To listen to a U.Z. disc is to immerse in top flight neoclassicism and recall just what the progressive rock movement initiated for: intelligence and daring execution. The band, however, has gone much further than even most of the revered mainstays and defies expectations time and again. Clivages is no exception and reminds even the ancient prog-gods just what they were put on Earth for.
Magma, Jasun Martz, Art Zoyd, mid-period Soft Machine, Denis Rea, and only the most cerebral aesthetes have managed to compose a catalogue the equal of Univers Zero's, a whirling menu created in a cyclotron and manifested with ferocious vigor upon each successive masterpiece. It would be no error to cite Iannis Zenakis as well, for Denis' forte is just as heady, exotic, and deep. Yes, you'll hear elements of King Crimson, Canterbury, Van der Graaf Generator, and myriad prog madmen in the mix, but U.Z. goes way beyond all that, arriving at the station a century hence. Think Lark's Tongue in Aspic to the fifth power.
Clivages is not a CD, it's an adventure through time and space on Ra's chariot powered by ramjets, more than a few times crashing directly into planets, engines full throttle. Whether in skewed chamber diminuendos (Vacillements), fascinating incidentalism (Earth Scream), or displays of brute force and naked power (a hell of a lot of the rest), the design of each track is ornate, complex, and hypnotic, deceptively mannered whether it's tearing your face off or healing irrealities. Sure, the new era has produced a very satisfying roster of superb groups of varying inclination (Porcupine Tree, Mars Volta, Ohm, etc.), but releases such as this show where the real mark is pegged, how the next plane will be achieved, and what was lost in all the market vacillation in between. At one time, years ago, I was pretty sure ECM would've laid the plan out (I mean, Jesus, even Erkki Sven-Tuur, ex-In Spe, seemed poised to take the reins, as in the remarkable Exodus and others), but stultified insipid pelican-heads seem to have taken over too many aspects that formerly glorious label, and so we're quite happily left with primer pastures in the Cuneiforn, MoonJune, and too few other labels passing the torch from decade to decade.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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