Well, here's a name I've not heard of for a number of years... although it's a more than welcome blast from the past. I was sent a physical copy of Universe217's eponymously titled debut album to review eight years ago by their, at the time, Norwegian label, Duplicate Records. Limited to just a thousand copies, it seemed like something of a rare discovery and a gem of a submission; what with the band described, back then, as "probably Greece's best kept secret", and my total adoration of the record. This Greek act's music was utterly sublime on what was a mightily strong debut. So, with all that said, it's rather inexplicable they fell entirely off my radar. Looking at their bio, it looks like they parted company with Duplicate shortly after said release, so there went that outlet for accessing their music. And it's not until now that any further music from Universe217 has been submitted for review. I know, I know... I should've kept up with their output on a personal level, peripheral to reviewing duties, but when you're inundated with countless promos on a daily basis (more music than there are hours in the day), that's easier said than done. So, two EPs, two albums, and two split 7" singles later and I'm rediscovering this fine band once again, with their fourth full-length release (jeez, I've got some catching up to do!).
Based on how utterly flawless this work of art is, I'm sat here cursing myself for not keeping up with Universe217's output over the years. Flawless? Yep, I cannot fault 'Change' in any small way. First, this is music that conveys pure sincerity in each and every bar of music. The four musicians involved here - a minimalist constitution of guitar, bass, drums and voice - combine their talents in the most natural and complementary of ways. There are no flashy displays of sonic ego; rather, it's all about the whole. These four people are at one in both their intent and harmony. Second, Universe217 transcend genre in the most unpretentious of ways. Sure, labels such as doom, atmospheric post-rock/metal, psychedelic etc. can be easily directed at what this band do, and elements of said subgenres are discernible throughout. That would be a terrible injustice and oversimplified way of attempting to describe their music, though. The sonic space within which Universe217 have crafted their art is far more expansive than any genre underpinnings. It's more a case of genre idioms have been appropriated within their songs for certain affects; they're part of the overall immersive experience of listening to the music on 'Change' rather than pronounced in any way. Universe217 make genre elements work for them, rather than being dictated by genre. It's all about the emotional affects each song conveys (as should be the case with any piece of art), and these Greeks achieve this emphatically. 'Change' strikes a resonant chord in my very emotional core. Third, Tania's vocal performance is just magnificent. Rather than simply singing lyrics over some music, this lady genuinely knows how to use her voice as a fourth instrument; becoming part of the immersive sonic canvas that Universe217 have so finely crafted. Fourth, the production is perfect (to my ears, at least). It has just the right balance of resonance, polish, and analogue charm.
2016, thus far, has been a good year for incredibly strong album releases and I've already had to award a couple of 10/10 scores (something I never do lightly). And here's a third. 'Change' is an immaculately conceived work that's been executed in the most naturally appealing of ways. Shame on me for missing out on eight years of Universe217 magnificence. I certainly shall not be making the same mistake again!
Review by Mark Holmes
18th March 2016
2) Counting Hours
3) Here Comes
4) Rest Here
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Universe217 make genre elements work for them, rather than being dictated by genre. It's all about the emotional affects each song conveys (as should be the case with any piece of art), and these Greeks achieve this emphatically."