Univers Zero

Crawling Wind

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Most Univers Zero recordings originally appeared on the small French Atem and Cyronic labels, and were not exactly easy to obtain at the time of their initial release. But the long out of print Crawling Wind was recorded as an EP for Eastern Works, the Japanese division of Recommended Records (ReR), and it has achieved a kind of cult status over the years because of its even greater rarity. The original EP was recorded at what was quite possibly Univers Zero's creative peak, after their first three LPs and before they started moving away from acoustic chamber rock and toward a sound that was a little more conventionally electric. The three pieces on the EP (two studio recordings and one live track) are supplemented on Cuneiform's CD reissue with two additional live tracks, plus "Influences," a studio piece previously released only on ReR's 1983 two-disc Rock in Opposition sampler, which featured other iconoclastic bands/artists of the time, such as Art Bears, Faust, Henry Cow, and Robert Wyatt. The mixture of studio and live tracks (and the different times and places of the recordings) doesn't allow Crawling Wind to generate quite the intensity of UZ's three prior recordings -- 1313, Heresie, and Ceux Du Dehors. But with the exception of one early track from 1979 (an alternate live version of "Complainte," which appeared on 1313, UZ's first release), all the tracks on the Cuneiform release were recorded from 1982-1984, and are mature examples of UZ's unique gothic chamber rock sound, which featured a combination of strings (violin, cello, viola), woodwinds (clarinet, bassoon, oboe), and the powerful rhythm section of founder, leader, and primary composer Daniel Denis on drums, and either Guy Seger or Christian Genet on bass. Univers Zero enthusiasts will know what to expect from the studio tracks, which project either the moody gloom of Heresie ("Before the Heat"), or the ferocious, dissonant energy of Ceux Du Dehors ("Toujours Plus à L'est," "Influences"). One of the two long live tracks, "Central Belgium in the Dark" (a verbal play, at least, on 20th century classical composer Charles Ives' "Central Park in the Dark"), represents a slight change of pace for the band, as it is more loosely structured, with less ensemble playing and a more playful, improvised quality that is almost lyrical at times. "Triomphe des Mouches," while looser than a typical UZ studio recording, is still typically heavy and relentless, with featured cello work by Andre Mergenthaler, who uses his instrument's upper register at times to produce strangled, human-like cries. The three earlier Univers Zero reissues can probably be considered more essential than Crawling Wind, but this CD definitely transcends the "for completists only" category, and is a worthy addition to Cuneiform's fine catalog of UZ reissues.

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