Review: Universal Cell Unlock – Level Repulsion (Mid-Day Massage Parlor, Apr 17)

So the other week I tried to burn two Waylon Jennings LPs to a CD so I could listen to them in the car, but something apparently went horribly wrong because every track on Dreaming My Dreams has been hiked up about 60 bpm and the entirety of Good Hearted Woman was reduced to an incoherent, eardrum-dissolving squall. I bring this snafu up because much of Level Repulsion, Universal Cell Unlock’s first release since 2017’s Fugitive Numbers, doesn’t sound too different from the latter malfunction. Mysteriously produced with what are only listed as “handmade devices” without any overdubbing or processing, the dense powerhouse of scathing digital harsh noise is always strangely apathetic toward its own abrasiveness—the incessant, looping onslaughts of auditory error codes and circuit torture seem just as likely to be spontaneously auto-generated as conjured manually by one or more artists. This could also be a case of extreme technophobia; in conjunction with the cover image, perhaps what we’re hearing is the sound of furious, vitriolic abuse of any and all electronic invaders. “Pollusiondeaths,” the closer, is especially spastic and violent. But if that’s true then whoever’s doing the abusing must also be intimately familiar with the ins and outs of these Frankenstein machines… knowing thy enemy or fraternizing with thy foe? I’m not sure, but who cares, because the results are spectacular. And I don’t regret hammering my phone into metallic paste one bit. I think.

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