After Roger Trigaux left Univers Zero back in 1979 with their second album, Heresie in which according to the liner notes with the booking agent’s pressure and finding enough gigs to keep the band busy, had put a huge amount of pressure on Trigaux and he decided to leave the band and creating a vision and his own musical journey that is into darker territories and the soundtrack from hell if you will, that would later become Present. A sound that had this combination of Magma meets Frank Zappa meets King Crimson with a dosage of Alban Berg and Chamber music like no other.
My introduction to Present’s work was in the 2012 documentary, Romantic Warriors II: A Progressive Music Saga About Rock in Opposition. And soon, I was hooked into the music and world the Rock in Opposition genre and with their work it is dark, hidden, sinister, and terrifying. Almost as if they had recorded a score for one of Alejandro Jordorowsky’s films or Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou by giving theatre goers a leaping out of their seat moments of their music. Their debut album, Triskaidekaphobie, (The Fear of the Number 13) released in 1980, is one of the scariest and terrifying albums I’ve ever listened to.
Trigaux is very much like a conductor and he tells the band what to do and goes through one time signature after another difficult time change and it’s very chilling and powerful at the same time. In the group during that time period, the band considered along Trigaux on Guitar and Fender Rhodes, Alain Rochette on Keyboards, Christian Genet on Bass Guitar, and Daniel Denis (Univers Zero) on Drums and Percussion. Opener, Promenade Au Fond D’un Canal, sees the band go into the minds of atonal music like it had just opened up the gothic cathedrals to bring in some dosage time changes as the band get into work.
Trigaux goes into the mind of Robert Fripp and Fred Firth on his guitar as Denis eruptive drum work sets the tension throughout the piece and it’s homage to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring comes in handy throughout in a quick minute or two thanks from the militant piano chords by Rochette. Quatre-vingt Douse is Roger’s chance to shine through on the Piano and Fender Rhodes as he goes through this ominous chord progressions and solo like a concerto pianist by going into darker areas in the styles of Magma’s sessions for Kohntarkosz before the last three minutes heads into some heavy and very bloody aftermath if you will of the fighting and the battle has happened as Trigaux and Rochette create intense movements between the two of them as Denis bangs the gong and Genet doomy bass work sets the tone.
And then, they are back into the train with the last 59 seconds a-la Stravinsky style as I’ve mentioned before for a dramatic finale before the closer, Repulsion becomes a doomy ambient/atmosphere vibe. Trigaux and Genet play these notes as the bass goes through a disturbing note that is an experimental technique. The bonus tracks on the album were recorded live at the Halles de Schaerbeek in February 28, 1981 in Brussels and its one of the most mind-blowing performances that they gave of performing two of Univers Zero’s compositions.
Listening to the two bonus pieces, you could tell the band were on fire that night doing both Dense (Ceux du Dehors) and Vous Le Saurez En Temps Voulu (Heresie) and giving all they got to unleash some electricity and I can imagine the audience were completely blown away the moment Present performed it and knowing they have done an incredible job and wanting more of both Present and Univers Zero’s music as well. The people from Cuneiform Records including the coordination and direction by Steve Feigenbaum, and the team have done an incredible job reissuing this amazing gem from the Rock in Opposition movement and the liner notes done by Aymeric Leroy and Renato de Moraes is amazing research on the band’s music and history and of course Udi Koomran’s restoration/ remastering the album is superb and amazing whilst listening to this about four times now, I’m completely hooked into the world of Present.
So if you admire the sounds of the RIO movement, Henry Cow, Frank Zappa, Magma, Univers Zero, and King Crimson, then Present’s Triskaidekaphobie is the album worth checking out.