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Sirius and the Ghosts

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Album Review

Approximately four year after Heatwave, Univers Zero's last recording prior to re-forming for a host of new recordings beginning with 1999's The Hard Quest, their drummer and composer Daniel Denis released this solo CD, which displays some classic Univers Zero elements, but also demonstrates Denis' desire to try out some new musical possibilities. The biggest change, perhaps, is in Denis' more prominent appropriation of synthesized keyboards — which he played to a very limited extent only on the last two Univers Zero releases. The synthesizer, in particular, gives Denis a wider tonal palette to work with, and the diminished role of the drums on this CD reduces (although that's too negative a word) the unspeakable Lovecraftian terrors of Univers Zero's sound to a more subtle and playful sense of mystery. Wisely, Denis also surrounds himself with capable musicians and diverse instrumentation (clarinets, saxes, recorders, cellos, and bass), which dilutes the potential sterility of a generic synthesizer sound and allows the music to keep its distance from mere fake orchestral or fuzak jazz. Compositionally, the pieces are still heavily riff-oriented, as they were for the most part in previous Univers Zero outings, but Denis teases the ear with a greater variety of musical textures and moods. As always, though, the brooding, Gothic atmosphere is never too far beneath the surface, and is nicely highlighted by the CD's last selection, "Fete Souterraine [Subterranean Festival]," which consists of deep reverberating drones and a somber repeated theme on cathedral organ.

Sirius and the Ghosts, Davis Denis
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