(Cuneiform)

Guitarist/keyboardist Roger Trigaux founded Present in 1979, after having given birth to Univers Zero five years prior together with drummer Daniel Denis (himself a member of the new band). Completed by another pianist (Alain Rochette) and a bassist (Christian Genet) this lineup produced Triskaïdékaphobie in 1980. Cuneiform has reprinted the album following a thorough work of audio refurbishment, adding as a decent-sounding gift two UZ tracks (“Dense” and “Vous Le Saurez En Temps Voulu”) that were performed live by Present at that time, since they didn’t have sufficient original materials for a full concert.

The sonic traces left by both groups have consistently been subjected to the largest possible quantity of pictorial commonplaces by the press, frequently reiterated in third-hand carbon copy from previous descriptions. Without restating the obvious (in a nutshell, Univers Zero playing their game on a superior level of compositional authority and suspenseful vibrancy) and leaving usual suspects Stravinsky, Bartok, King Crimson and Magma in the closet, this record is nonetheless a legitimate representation of what I like to call “sinister minimalism” built upon bony melodic shards, uncomfortable intervals and unusual meters, either at improbable speeds or slow as a funeral march. Denis is a splendid (and, to this day, rather unsung) drumming specimen whose ability in scissoring tempos predated by decades several ballyhooed exponents of math-rock. The music’s alarming traits are made explicit by a riveting contrapuntal correspondence between electric pianos and bass; certain episodes from Art Zoyd’s output — with particular reference to Le Mariage Du Ciel Et De L’Enfer — appear reasonably influenced by atmospheres such as those evoked by “Quatre-vingt Douze”. Having never been sold on Trigaux’s fuzzily dissonant wailing (as heard in the finale of “Promenade Au Fond D’Un Canal”) I have no problem in recognizing that Present’s style was also decisively delineated by that sort of perfidious exhilaration.

This somewhat collateral chapter in the history of innovative European ensembles still possesses enough attractive force to prove that, at the end of the 70s, punk had not managed to entirely kill the chances of disciplined musicians willing to wallop hard. With much better technical pronunciation and aesthetic implications, for that matter.

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