Posts Tagged ‘Univers Zero’

ReR USA has the new Present

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Just got this email:

Well, it’’s finally here, after years of hard work, and we’’re really proud of it. Roger Trigaux’’s (ex-Univers Zero) band, PRESENT, returns with a vengeance on this release: a new studio album CD, plus a three-hour DVD. These are compositions that spread out and expand upon the style of the band’s latest works, NUMBER 6 and HIGH INFIDELITY, and include the Trigaux duo’’s latest epic, VERTGES, as well as Present’’s slick version of JACK THE RIPPER, and Pierre Chevalier’’s fiery, A LAST DROP. The DVD is comprised of live footage from the band’’s two RIO France performances in 2007, and roughly half of the Gouveia Art Rock Festival performance from 2005. As an added bonus, there is archival footage, some of which dates back to the early days of the band, featuring Daniel Denis and Christian Genet. All of this has been exquisitely recorded and mixed by Udi Koomran, with post-video work by Asaf Carmeli, both of whom were out to re-define the parameters of modern-day Rock In Opposition products. The disks come in a spiffy, 8-panel digipack.

Obviously, this sounds amazing. It’s also steeply priced at nearly $40, but I’m sure it’ll be well worth it. In addition to the new piece, I’m really stoked to hear the recording of “Jack the Ripper” - when I saw Present’s show in North Carolina in 2005, one of my absolute favorite moments was when they unexpectedly launched into that classic Univers Zero composition.

New stuff that will probably rock

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

I’m excited about all of these upcoming releases for the remainder of 2009:

  • Anti-Pop Consortium - Fluorescent Black (heard it last night and I already know it rocks)
  • Baroness - Blue Record
  • Between the Buried and Me - The Great Misdirect
  • The Dillinger Escape Plan - Option Paralysis (probably early 2010)
  • Do Make Say Think - Other Truths
  • Epica - Design Your Universe (I am a total sucker for this band)
  • Espers - III
  • Evangelista - Prince of Truth
  • Gaza - He Is Never Coming Back
  • Krallice - Dimensional Bleedthrough
  • Magma - Emehntet-Re (is this really coming out in November??)
  • Present - Barbaro (isn’t this supposed to be out already? can’t find it anywhere)
  • Sajjanu - Pechiku!!
  • Univers Zero - Clivages (technically January 2010)
  • Wrnlrd - Myrmidon

Obviously, I have very little idea about what’s going on in the prog world these days. Any other avant-prog releases I should be paying attention to? (Please don’t tell me about the new Transatlantic album, I care even less than I did five years ago.)

Here it is! Best of 2006

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

This best of 2006 list was extremely challenging to come up with, if only because I’ve begun listening to new music at an even greater rate, and I just had a lot more to choose from this time around. The list below is one that, perhaps more than any other best-of-year list I’ve done, I feel could be significantly different a year, a month, or even a week from now. That said, I am definitely glad I waited a year to do this one, as I hadn’t even heard 40% of these albums by the end of 2006.

Before we get started, if you’re curious, my best-of lists for 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, and 2001 are also available on this blog. Now for the main attraction:

  1. Newsom, Joanna - Ys
    Head and shoulders above the rest, Ys could be my favorite album of the decade, not just the year. Newsom’s voice, lyrics, compositions and harp playing are bewitching, and I’ve been listening to Ys regularly for the past year and never get tired of it. I expect this to be a long-lasting classic, and unlike many critics, I don’t use that word lightly.
  2. Tanakh - Ardent Fevers
    I’ve become fairly indifferent to most new indie-rock out there, but this group plays an endlessly interesting meshing of styles that transcends genres. There’s post-rock and ambient music influences as well as straight-ahead melodic songwriting, and there are some wicked scorched-earth guitar solos to boot. Music that’s difficult to describe and pigeonhole is often very appealing to me, and Ardent Fevers is a perfect example.
  3. Zs - Buck
    Perhaps the most interesting avant-rock band operating today, this live album shows the power that a telepathically tight ensemble playing formally composed, wickedly difficult music can have. A must for anyone interested in dissonant, rhythmically complex modern music.
  4. Decapitated - Organic Hallucinosis
    Speaking of rhythmically difficult, this band’s nerdy death metal is occasionally jaw-dropping in its technicality, which makes the recent death of their drummer in a car crash all the more tragic. I was all stoked to see these guys live, but the death of their drummer and hospitalization of their guitarist was too much for the band to handle and they promptly disbanded. One of the saddest stories in music all year (2007, to be clear). RIP Witold “Vitek” Kieltyka.
  5. NeBeLNeST - ZePTO
    I guess I do still like prog. ZePTO is the only original prog album on this top 10 list, though admittedly it’s no namby-pamby symphonic fairy tale. This album sees the French quartet dip into avant-garde waters; their music has always been dark, dissonant and amorphous, but never quite to this extent.
  6. Univers Zero - Live
    Notable for many reasons, not least that it’s the first official live release for this 30-year-old band, but also because the performances are simply top-notch. “Xenantaya” especially absolutely comes alive compared to the studio version, and the inclusion of older pieces like the classic “Toujours Plus à l’Est” is a wonderful surprise.
  7. Om - Conference of the Birds
    There’s only one transcendent song on this album, but then there are only two songs total. The 16-minute “At Giza” is an absolute triumph of repetitive, trancey, spiritual metal, still the best thing this band has ever done. In concert, three separate people exclaimed after this song that it was a “religious experience.” They may be overstating the case, but not by too much.
  8. Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
    Everyone’s favorite noisy indie-rock band gets back to the noise! The opening and closing epics on this album are the classic feedback-drenched workouts that, as much as their poppy vocal numbers, helped give this band their reputation. The best thing they’ve recorded since the glory days in the mid-90s.
  9. Espers - II
    I was a latecomer to this acid-folk group, and this was my introduction to their music. Greg Weeks, formerly of New Sonic Architecture fame, and Meg Baird combine to make some of the most evocatively edgy folk music I’ve heard. Mellow Candle comes to mind; these guys possess an equally formidable melodic sense (and their vocal duets are equally as wonderful), but their vision is way darker.
  10. Satoko Fujii & Natsuki Tamura - In Krakow In November
    I love Fujii’s quartet albums and like her orchestra works, but it’s in a solo and duo setting that, in my opinion, she really shines. Her melodic sensibility is simply beautiful, and that really comes through in this recording with trumpeter/husband Tamura. “Morning Mist” is pure distilled beauty, but the whole record is a delight.

I seem to say this every year, but 2006 was a pretty damn good year. I suspect this will be true for every year as long as I continue keeping up with a wide depth and breadth of new music. Certainly 2007 — in which I bought more albums released this year than ever before — is shaping up to be fantastic. It’s certainly a good time to be a fan of underground, experimental music.

Just to prove the point — and this is probably a bit excessive — here are a bunch of other albums from 2006 that I really liked. Four or five of these could easily have been in the top 10 if I’d been in a slightly different mood.

  • AghoraFormless
  • Christina AguileraBack to Basics
  • Amon AmarthWith Oden On Our Side
  • AtomicHappy New Ears!
  • Michaël AttiasCredo
  • Tim BerneLivein Cognito
  • Iva BittováSuperchameleon (DVD)
  • BorisPink
  • Peter Brötzmann, Marino Pliakas & Michael WertmüllerFull Blast
  • BurialBurial
  • Nels ClineNew Monastery
  • The CoreBlue Sky
  • The CoupPick a Bigger Weapon
  • DamselDistressed
  • The DecemberistsThe Crane Wife
  • EnslavedRuun
  • From a Second Story WindowDelenda
  • Nelly FurtadoLoose
  • Genghis TronDead Mountain Mouth
  • IsisIn the Absence of Truth
  • IsisClearing the Eye (DVD)
  • Isis & AereogrammeIn the Fishtank 14
  • Glenn KotcheMobile
  • MagmaEpok II (DVD)
  • Loreena McKennittAn Ancient Muse
  • MogwaiMr. Beast
  • Simon Nabotov & Tom RaineySteady Now
  • NightwishEnd of an Era (DVD)
  • NIMBYSongs For Adults
  • One ShotEwaz Vader
  • Peeping TomPeeping Tom
  • Radio Massacre InternationalSeptentrional
  • Sunn O))) & BorisAltar
  • Justin TimberlakeFutureSex/LoveSounds
  • UnexpectIn a Flesh Aquarium
  • UzvaUoma
  • The Vandermark 5A Discontinuous Line
  • YakuzaSamsara
  • Dhafer YoussefDivine Shadows
  • ZaarZaar

There you have it. I’m planning a couple other posts, coming towards the end of the month, recapping my 2007 without actually doing a top 10 albums list, since, of course, that’ll be coming in a year. But I do want to talk about my favorite concerts of the year, as well as discuss the continuing evolution of my music tastes (in this case, this year saw me listening to more extreme metal and free improv than ever).

Charming Hostess live in a coffee shop

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

A couple nights ago I got to see Charming Hostess live. They performed for about an hour, singing songs almost exclusively from Trilectic and Sarajevo Blues. I like the big-band version of this group better (who doesn’t?), but they were certainly an incredibly entertaining trio to watch even just a cappella. They call themselves “nerdy-sexy-commie-girlie music” or something like that, but it wasn’t until I saw their live performance that I realized just how nerdy they really are. This is something that really appealed to me: Jewlia introduced every single song, regaling the audience with background details on the songs’ subject matters (which tended to the esoteric: a 1920s love affair between a Marxist revolutionary and a German philosopher, or the siege of Sarajevo). It was nice to see all three performers really get into the songs — clearly, even though they sing in multiple languages, they really know what all their lyrics mean, and they feel them as they sing them. Fun show.

A quick roundup of some interesting reading from the indie-rock sites recently…

What bands have NO weak albums?

Monday, February 6th, 2006

There’s a small thread going on at ProgressiveEars asking for recommendations of Univers Zero’s music. I posted a quick response, basically saying that I like all of their albums (thus making mine an entirely unhelpful contribution to the discussion), though for different reasons. I really don’t think there’s a weak spot in their entire discography — some 10 albums as of the release of Live last month. Some I like less than others, sure (their first two “reunion” albums are a notch below the rest of their body of work IMHO), but it’s all quite good, with each album subtly different from the ones that came before and after.

I can’t really think of any other band about which I feel this way. There are some bands out there that I like all of their albums, of course, but none with the long history and large discography of Univers Zero. There are plenty of bands who have a great discography but who have released a clunker or two, or at least a couple albums that I’m lukewarm about. There are some non-prog bands, like Cowboy Junkies, Mogwai or The Decemberists, whose discographies I like front to back, following along with their subtle stylistic changes as they evolved, but I don’t like them with the same passion that I have for Univers Zero.

I don’t know. Henry Cow comes close, but they have fewer albums and I’m not a huge fan of the Canterbury-centric sound of Legend. I guess King Crimson comes relatively close as well; I adore a lot of their albums, but I’m not a huge fan of their 80s period and they’ve just released so much material (and I have so much of it) that I’m just not as well-acquainted with a lot of their stuff, compared to how well I know all of UZ’s releases. Perhaps Daniel Denis’ infamous perfectionism, and refusal to release live albums until this new one, pays off in the form of a more concise and lovable discography.

I think I’m rambling a bit, but I think the point is this: there are very, very few bands out there who can say that they’ve released a bunch of albums in a recognizably distinct style, all of excellent quality, yet all of which show enough progression and development such that they don’t all sound alike. I mean, some people probably love all of the Ozric Tentacles‘ or Djam Karet’s albums, but to me they’re all too similar to each other. Univers Zero have avoided that rut, doing something a bit different every time (although arguably the reunion version of the band shows less progression between albums than the classic version) such that every album, despite being in the same overall style, is a unique work that stands well on its own merits. And this is without exception — no clunkers in their history at all!

If I think of another band about which I can say this, I’ll follow up, but I don’t think I will. Univers Zero isn’t my favorite band — I think a decent number of bands have reached greater heights — but perhaps no one in my experience, particularly in the rock music field, has been as consistently good as they have.

What’s spinning, July 17 edition

Sunday, July 17th, 2005

It’s list time, because I’m insomniatic. I am currently discovering or rediscovering:

  • Aka Moon - Guitars
    pleasant, accessible Belgian avant(ish) jazz, the basic sax/bass/drums trio plus three guitarists, that hasn’t quite sunk in with me yet
  • Scott Amendola Band - Cry
    less pleasant but still accessible West Coast US avant jazz built around a cover of a Bob Dylan song (that is actually my least favorite piece on this album)
  • Il Berlione - Il Berlione
    crazy Japanese prog/fusion occupying a middle ground somewhere between Happy Family and Tipographica in terms of complexity and wacked-outness
  • Dälek - From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots
    aggressive avant/underground hip-hop on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label, with a seriously abrasive 12-minute noise experiment right in the middle of the song order
  • Daniel Denis - Les Eaux Troubles
    second solo album from the Univers Zero bandleader. Better than Sirius and the Ghosts, his first, with a more fully fleshed-out sound
  • Dungen - Ta det Lugnt
    fuzzed-out ’70s airy-fairy Swedish psych album from… 2004. Neo-prog for hipsters!
  • Faun Fables - Family Album
    schizophrenically eclectic “folk” with SGM frontman Nils Frykdahl, fronted by an impressively powerful and versatile female vocalist
  • The Flying Luttenbachers - Systems Emerge From Complete Disorder
    love the title… brutal prog at its noisiest; definitely less accessible than Infection and Decline, but maybe that’s just because there’s no Magma cover this time around
  • Hail - Kirk
    as Alex Temple once said… Susanne Lewis (Thinking Plague) makes a lo-fi indie-rock record
  • Nazca - Nazca
    like Univers Zero circa 1313, only from Mexico, all acoustic, and not as good; this bored the crap out of me when I first heard it, but it’s finally growing on me
  • Various - Unsettled Scores
    two-disc compilation of Cuneiform artists covering material by other Cuneiform artists… neat!
  • Zs - Zs
    dual sax, dual guitar, dual drums attack, not nearly as aggressive as you might expect given its brutal-prog heritage; often has very much of a somewhat dry chamber-classical feel

I’ve been on a CD-buying binge and some the fruits of it are above. Others listed above are albums I’ve had for a while but just haven’t quite connected with. Some reviews will result, to be sure. Right now I’m particularly taken with Il Berlione and From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots. The latter is a hip-hop album so be warned, although it is definitely notable that Dälek is one of the more experimental underground hip-hop artists out there, and last year released a collaborative album with none other than Faust — an album that I have not yet heard, but remedying that is a priority.

What’s spinning, May 18 edition

Friday, May 18th, 2001

Okay, my impatient readers: here’s an update.

In case my mysterious and virtually total absence from various music-related boards wasn’t enough of a clue, I’ve been away from the music scene for a bit. Oh, I’ve been listening to tons and tons of good music, but I haven’t been buying much, and I haven’t been writing about it much. This is mostly because I’ve finally immersed myself in photography, as I have wanted to do for some time. While it hasn’t replaced music as my consuming passion, it has left a bit less time and far less money for music.

In any case, a list of stuff I’ve been listening to a lot for the past month or so:

  • Arise From Thorns - Before an Audience of Stars
    Acoustic gothic-styled rock with pleasant female vox. Pretty nice stuff; lots of acoustic guitar, which I like, and a dark, moody atmosphere, which I also like. The whole thing is sort of on the level, with few peaks and troughs, but there are a few gorgeous acoustic guitar solos and some cool lyrics.
  • Einstürzende Neubauten - Silence is Sexy
    Still spinning a lot. What a great album, man. See below for comments. I find myself singing the ridiculously catchy “Dingsaller” refrain to myself a lot.
  • Garmarna - God’s Musicians
    Rockified Scandinavian folk music - pretty nifty stuff. I will now demonstrate my utter lack of knowledge about European world/folk music by saying that when I first heard these guys, they reminded me of Capercaillie, the band that plays rockified Celtic music. I was introduced to them by a friend at Yale, who played me a couple tracks from Vengeance, which is next on my list.
  • Karnataka - The Storm
    Sort of like a modern adult contemporary band with good female vox and lots of guitar solos. At their best, they write stuff that’s on par with the most beautiful pieces by, say, October Project. Unfortunately the album is quite uneven, with the best stuff at the beginning and end. Nevertheless, I like it.
  • Colin Masson - Isle of Eight
    Three really long compositions, almost completely instrumental and almost all of it played by multi-instrumentalist Masson. A lot like Mike Oldfield, but with more of an emphasis on the guitar work (mostly electric, with some nice acoustic parts). The textures are cool, with good variation in the thematic material. When the female vox kick in things get much simpler, but at least those parts are quite catchy. A pleasant surprise.
  • Radiohead - Kid A
    I listened to it a bit when I first got it and liked what I heard; now, listening more closely, I still like what I hear. “Idioteque” reminds me strongly of Squarepusher, but then that’s about all the experience I have with that sort of beat-driven music. The opening track couldn’t be more perfect.
  • A Silver Mt. Zion - He Has Left Us Alone…
    This took much longer to grow on me than Godspeed You Black Emperor! albums, but it’s now one of my favorites. Wistfully beautiful stuff, and perfect for road trips or train rides.
  • Spaced Out - Spaced Out
    Fusion. Not my cup of tea, in general - the stuff tends too much towards soloing without much melody. But there’s definitely some good music on this album, particularly the bass playing which is showy and fun. Fusion fans should definitely get a kick out of this one.

I’ve also been listening to a lot of various MP3s. A few Outkast tracks that have convinced me that I need an Outkast album, now. More Garmarna, most of which I actually like better than the stuff on the album of theirs I have. Some tracks from the album of remixed Sigur Rós songs, some of which are really cool and some of which suck a fat one. Univers Zero “Central Belgium in the Dark”, from the Crawling Wind EP - ah, classic stuff from one of my all-time favorite bands.

Stumbled across Brendon Rapp’s music blog. Some interesting reading there. Hi *Legion*.

They say money’s the root of all evil but I can’t tell
You know what I mean - pesos, francs, yens, cowrie shells, dollar bills
Or is it the mind state that’s ill
Creating crime rates to fill the new prisons they build
Over money and religion there’s more blood to spill
The wounds of slaves in cotton fields that never heal
What’s the deal?
Black Star, “Thieves in the Night”

Mos Def, whatever I might think of his solo album, writes some damn fine lyrics. The Black Star album - his collaboration with Talib Kweli - is masterful.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer is dominating the list of “top ten most visited reviews” on the stats page, with no other band having more than one album on the list. Blah. I hate those guys. They’re just so bad. Arr.

Prog: the bebop of rock?

Thursday, February 17th, 2000

I like to think of the progressive rock movement as vaguely analogous to the bebop movement. Both see an increase in musical sophistication and roots in a counterculture of some sort. So why was bebop so much more successful? Jazz was as “popular” and “lowbrow” before bebop as rock was before (and, hell, after) progressive rock. I’m just now learning about the history of these musics, so maybe there are answers… but I see these as open questions.

Spinning early this morning:

  • King Crimson - Red - see my note about “Starless” in yesterday’s entry
  • Mogwai - Come On Die Young - very mellow; hasn’t quite gotten through to me yet
  • Pink Floyd - The Final Cut - I have a love-hate relationship with this one…
  • Univers Zero - The Hard Quest - finally growing on me, in a really big way

Through the fish-eyed lens of tearstained eyes
I can barely define the shape of this moment in time
And far from flying high in clear blue skies
I’m spiraling down to the hole in the ground where I hide
Pink Floyd, “The Final Cut”