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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Univers Zero

Ceux Du Dehors

Review by Gary Hill

This outfit from Belgium is one of the bands in the RIO (Rock In Opposition) genre of prog rock. I must admit that a lot of RIO is a bit too chaotic and dissonant for my tastes. Admittedly some of this CD falls into that category. Still, the musicianship and creativity is to be applauded. Ceux Du Dehors was their third album, and one that marked the end of the first phase of the band. It's frantic shifts in structure and classical instrumentation marks it as an important part of the RIO sub-genre. While it is definitely not for everyone, it would make a fine introduction to this excellent band.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Dense
Frantically fast swirling lines start this, then it shifts for a short time to a rather classically oriented King Crimson like segment. A short sedate interlude takes it before a new growing prog movement (with classical instruments) takes it. A short reprise of the opening elements gives way to something that feels a bit like the Simpsons theme song. Then the band launches into a rapid-fire series of changes, almost too hard to keep up with. This includes sedate movements, Crimsonian madness, and soaring prog segments all woven together in a frantically altering and evolving soundscape. While this is hard to keep up with, it truly has some wonderful moments. After a while like this a sedate segment provides a little breathing room for a good amount of time, Old World instruments laying down a gentle pillow of sound. Eventually dark and ominous tones emerge atop this for a short time, but the restfulness returns in this, the longest consistent segment of the piece. This grows slowly and organically gaining volume, intensity, speed and power, eventually ramping up into a Red era Crimson type jam, but the rapid-fire changes are gone for a time. Eventually one of the earlier themes, a Yesish like movement, takes it, then the quick alterations return. They drop it back to a dark and ominous mellow segment before an ELP-like jam leads to a false ending. Ominous piano ends the silence, and other instruments join in a primordial sounding, slowly moving way. This eventually turns into something that would be quite at home as the soundtrack to a horror film, then an exceptionally long note ends it.

La Corne Du Bois Des Pendus
A pretty Old World bouncy melody starts this, then something that feels like a Gregorian chant takes over for a time. The band begin building and merging these themes into a slightly off kilter, but powerful progression, at times moving back towards full reprises of the earlier movements. This is a fairly cohesive, albeit steadily shifting piece of music without the drastic changes presented in the opening number. It does drop to a dissonant orchestral type section later, though for the first dramatic change in the piece. This gets quite noisy, then a dark, evil sounding chanting takes it for a short time. Crowd noises along with very dissonant music come in next. This gets very weird and almost a bit frightening as it carries on through load and soft passages. This again is music that might be quite at home in the soundtrack to a fright film.

Bon Jour Chez Vous
This is a frantically off-kilter cut that's rather fun and playful in texture. It's a nice break from the dark and heavy themes of the last piece. With varying mellower and louder segments this is quite a coherent part of the piece. The instrumentation is very neo-classical. It shifts to the cacophonous later, though. Then a very dramatic and powerful jam takes it. A door slamming ends the piece.

Combat
Militaristic rhythmic patterns with other instrumentation takes this to start. They then modify it into a fairly frantic and powerful jam for a short time until a false ending. They begin building from there in very low classical type tones, gradually bringing it up in volume and intensity. While they move the progression and create variations upon it, it stays fairly true to its theme for quite some time. They crescendo, then drop it to piano with violin overtop. In sedate movements for a while. The violin eventually takes it in melancholy and quite tones. As other instruments enter this takes on dramatic sounds, but these soon drop away. The violin crescendos, then hints of an explosion of prog jamming emerge. Instead disquieting atmosphere comes in until a burst of percussion and strings give way to another mellow passage. This eventually gains some tentative promises of a new prog jam that eventually emerges, then a Red era Crimson-like jam arrives, moving the cut in a new direction. This is quite fast and powerful, but short lived. They drop it to a new atmospheric movement to carry on. This builds very slowly in pleasant patterns. Then a new prog excursion, much more melodic, takes it. This has a great progression and tone and takes the cut to its outro.

La Musique D'Erich Zann
Inspired by a story written by H. P. Lovecraft, atmosphere starts this and violin enters slowly, weaving strands of disjointed playing. It carries on in this fashion, gaining intensity and volume as it does. Other instruments eventually join in. It eventually takes on a noisy swirling cacophonic texture rising up to stop abruptly. Then a frantic, but quiet scratching across the string takes it to end.

La Tete Du Corbaeu
This one comes in dramatic and symphonically heavy. It builds slowly and organically, and is quite an intriguing piece. This is rather dark at times, but still quite powerful. A quite burst of speed and power gives way to a slow "plucking" section that again very gradually builds. This building never sees fruition, though as the cut ends before it can go anywhere.

Triomphe Des Mouches
The opening section of this again calls to mind horror film soundtrack music. The group gradually build and expand this into a twisted pastiche of cacophony until a false ending gives way to a new "clock ticking" timed segment. This is quite dramatic, and while strange, less dissonant. This grows gradually building on the base by expanding and intensifying it. It gets more dissonant as it carries on. This has a nervous intensity and psychotic feel to it. It goes to double time later, intensifying the nervousness.

 
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