Triskaïdékaphobie/La Poison Qui Rend Fou

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Univers Zero guitarist Roger Trigaux left the group after their second release, Heresie, and formed Present. This reissue combines 1980's Triskaïdékaphobie with 1985's Le Poison Qui Rend Fou. Trigaux was joined on the 1980 debut by Univers Zero drummer Daniel Denis and bassist Christian Genet, who played on Univers Zero's first release. Le Poison Qui Rend Fou maintains the same lineup, except that bassist Ferdinand Philippot replaces Genet on electric bass. Paradoxically, Present's sound is almost a concentration of Univers Zero -- more Univers Zero than the thing itself -- due not only to the presence of two dominant members of the group, but also to Present's being a quartet (drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards), which allows for the very essence of the musical vision to emerge without any frills or distractions. "Promenade au Fond d'un Canal" begins Triskaïdékaphobie with a haunting theme, and then moves through a series of jagged but rhythmically precise riffs, building tension and then releasing it (but never altogether), and then building it again. Genet and Denis are, as always, the foundation, playing almost the same accents and lines, and their weight anchors the other instrumental voices and maintains the oppressive atmosphere. The twin pianos of Trigaux and Alain Rochette on "Quatre-vingt Douze" are played percussively, almost as rhythm instruments, and there is a crazed, obsessive quality to the repeated riffs, which typically continue a little bit longer than expected and are always on the edge of nervous hysteria. The effect is suggestive of someone (or something) too tightly wound, which is on the verge of self-destruction. It's a quality, like percussive minimalism, which may drive some unreceptive listeners half crazy, but to the aficionado, the tension is exquisite. A strong album of Rock in Opposition-style avant-prog, Present's sophomore outing is more diverse, sometimes lighter, but no less rigorous than their debut. An unusual touch is provided by the classical-flavored vocal by guest Marie-Anne Polaris -- Rochette's wife -- on part one of the title track, and Rochette's playing is somewhat jazzier than on Triskaïdékaphobie, giving Le Poison Qui Rend Fou a less severe sound at times. "Ersatz" and "Samana" even flirt with a Canterbury-esque jazz-rock flavor, although make no mistake, this is still a Present record, with the expected ominous mood, forceful arpeggios, astringent harmonics, and relentlessly driving attack -- not to mention demented circus music at the start of "Le Poison Qui Rend Fou, Pt. 2." Combined together in this single-disc compilation, Triskaïdékaphobie and Le Poison Qui Rend Fou provide a generous helping of some of the best and most uncompromising music that the RIO avant-prog scene ever produced. [In 2014 Cuneiform reissued Triskaïdékaphobie and Le Poison Qui Rend Fou in separate expanded editions (including live bonus tracks and extensive liner note essays), digitally restored and remastered by Udi Koomran.]

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