Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Univers Zero, "Vous le Saurez en Temps Voulu" (1979)

Most of the groups that spearheaded the particular school of avant-garde rock called RIO (Rock-in-Opposition) in the middle and later '70s had about them either a politicized intellectualism (Henry Cow and its offshoots, Area, Art Zoyd) or an anarchistic sense of humor derived from Dada and Surrealism (Stormy Six, Samla Mammas Manna, Etron Fou Leloublan, Area again); the Belgians in Univers Zero replaced both of the above with a double portion of sonic violence, to which they then appended a delicate filagree of more sonic violence. Where the Samlas and Area clearly came out of a jazz-rock and ethnic music tradition and Henry Cow welded Canterbury prog and free jazz to Schoenbergian chamber music and Brecht/Weill song setpieces, Univers Zero took much of its early inspiration from the rhythmically ferocious early ballets of Igor Stravinsky, especially Le Sacre du Printemps, and Béla Bartók's equally telluric focus on eerie sonics and mutated folk tonalities.

"Vous le Saurez en Temps Voulu" ("You'll Know It At the Appropriate Time") is from their second LP, 1979's Hérésie, which is perhaps the most determinedly grim and least rock-influenced record in their output. Where later offerings, among which I'd highly recommend Ceux de Dehors and Uzed, tended to feature compositions driven by asymmetrical ostinati across which slashed dissonant pirouettes of melody, Hérésie builds slowly, layering chants and funeral-procession rhythms (think the end of The Seventh Seal, not New Orleans) that build to fevered intensities before collapsing into jagged percussive figures and strangled guitar lines.

[Follow the link at the end of the video to hear the second half of the track.]

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