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Formed in 1974, Belgium-based chamber rock band Univers Zero initially featured co-composers drummer Daniel Denis and guitarist Roger Trigaux joined by bassoonist Michel Berckmans, violinist Marcel Dufrane, bassist Christian Genet, violinist/violist Patrick Hanappier, and harmonium/spinet player Emmanuel Nicaise. The avant-prog group, one of the first Rock in Opposition bands along with Britain's Henry Cow, Sweden's Samla Mammas Manna, Italy's Stormy Six, and France's Etron Fou Leloublan, released its first album, 1313, in 1977. Univers Zero immediately began their history of personnel changes with the 1979 follow-up LP Heresie, a relentlessly dark effort recorded by the quintet formation of Denis, Trigaux, Berckmans, Hanappier, and bassist Guy Segers, who would (at least momentarily) replace Genet.
In 1980, Trigaux left to begin a new musical endeavor, Present. Undaunted, the group continued on, adding keyboardist/composer Andy Kirk and releasing the landmark Ceux du Dehors in 1981. Two years later, Univers Zero issued the Crawling Wind EP (which Cuneiform reissued with bonus tracks in 2001), having added clarinetist Dirk Descheemaeker and -- following the departure of Hanappier -- violinist Alan Ward to the fold. The next year saw the release of Uzed, which signaled a transition toward more electronic instrumentation and even a somewhat fusion-oriented sound. Keyboardist Jean-Luc Plouvier had replaced Andy Kirk on Uzed, but two years later the Heatwave CD featured a two-keyboard lineup with both Plouvier and Kirk as well as the return of Hanappier on violin in place of Ward, who had departed after only playing on Crawling Wind. Bassist Christian Genet was also in the Heatwave lineup, having replaced Guy Segers prior to Uzed.
Univers Zero broke up in 1987 as Denis, by now the group's driving force, main composer, and undisputed leader, pursued a solo career, but the band re-formed late in the following decade, releasing The Hard Quest in 1999 and Rhythmix in 2002. With continuing support from Cuneiform, the group released Implosion in 2004 and arguably one of its strongest efforts in decades, Live, in early 2006, followed by another career peak, Clivages, in 2010. The latter-day version of Univers Zero has continued the band's previous habit of featuring ever-changing lineups surrounding the constant presence of Denis, although double-reedist Michel Berckmans, a key contributor to the foreboding and sometimes downright chilling sound of Univers Zero's early years, can also be heard on all of the group's CDs from The Hard Quest onward.
Univers Zero (also known as Univers Zéro and Univers-Zero) are an instrumental Belgian band known for playing dark music heavily influenced by 20th century chamber music.
The band was formed in 1974 by drummer Daniel Denis. For a time they were part of a musical movement called Rock in Opposition (RIO) which strove to create dense challenging music, a direct contrast to the disco and punk music being produced in the late 1970s. Obvious early influences were Bartók and Stravinsky, however the band also cited less well known composers such as Albert Huybrechts, who was also Belgian.
Their early albums were almost entirely acoustic, but with later releases their sound became more electric. In 1977 they released their first album 1313 on which the members played with a heavy rock and roll approach despite the fact that the instrumentation was largely acoustic. This is mostly due to the use of drums and bass guitar. Two years later the album Heresie proved to be even darker.
Subsequent albums lightened the sound only slightly, but became ever more electric. Whereas early albums featured oboes, spinets, harmoniums and Mellotrons, their 1980s albums tended to rely more on synthesizer and electric guitar. Despite these changes, their overall sound remained fairly consistent.
The group disbanded in 1987, but reformed in 1999. In the interim, drummer Daniel Denis released two solo albums and joined Art Zoyd, a similar band from France. Since 1999, Univers Zéro have released four studio albums.