Strange bursts of algorithmic electronics from the artist formerly known as Egyptrixx.
This comes with a shift in mood. Slower structures complemented a doomy atmosphere on previous records (see, in particular, the crushing Ceramic TL album, which dealt with "environmental cataclysm"). On Universalist, Psutka's positive side surfaces. Tracks are called things like "Ecstatica" and "Unity Mind," and the music is packed with bright arpeggios, ravishing tonal colours and the odd bit of heartfelt guitar. Only something's not quite right. As with Andreas Nicolas Fischer's algorithmically generated sleeve artwork, Psutka seems to have ceded a degree of creative control to his machines. Frantic, strange and inscrutable, bits of Universalist sound as if a machine-learning algorithm tried to mimic his sound and got it fascinatingly wrong.
This doesn't make for easy listening. Many tracks collapse two or more ideas into one another: fluid synth melody into clanking industrial noise, serene ambience into nightmare prog overload, and so on. Some overlay seemingly unrelated material, as in the bizarre "Para," whose cartwheeling arps meet splats of ectoplasmic synth in a conflicting key. But every now and then a killer idea reaches out and grabs you by the throat. "Unity Mind" has one: a dramatic melody bullet-holed with increasingly wild sonic interference. It's followed by the album's highlight, "Test," which feels like being dragged at speed across the MIDI piano roll, your head thunking on every black note.
Perhaps aware of how far out he's gone, Psutka does throw some bones to terrestrial listeners as the album progresses. "Trader" and "B.T.H.L." sound like cubist renderings of '80s synth pop, their glassy synths and booming drums spelling out fractious but satisfying hooks. The closer, "Wish," returns to the cooler pacing of those earlier albums, bringing Psutka's synth work into sharper focus. The track ends on an odd note: a chord comes out of nowhere and hangs there, waiting for a resolution that doesn't come. Who knows where Psutka will go next.