Israeli guitarist Yonatan Gat seamlessly blended a cornucopia of styles on his 2015 album, Director, which was fully improvised along with regular collaborators Gal Lazer (drums) and Sergio Sayeg (bass). The same trio recorded 2018 follow-up Universalists, but the results are even more ambitious and ecstatic. Gat incorporates vocal samples and guest artists spanning several nations and cultures, all meshing to form an unnamed form of music in the name of universal harmony. It's never an easy, smooth listen, however -- it's jarring and rambunctious, sometimes interrupted by glitches and tape edits reminiscent of some of the Boredoms' later work. Opener "Cue the Machines" dices samples from an Alan Lomax-recorded Italian choir into a choppy wave of surf jazz that would make John Zorn jealous. "Cockfight" submerges gamelan percussion underneath furious thrashing and fluid guitar bending. Less frenetic and more sacred is "Medicine," a joyous song of praise featuring Rhode Island-based powwow ensemble Eastern Medicine Singers. "Fading Casino" and "Sightseer" are also on the peaceful side, but the twilit melodies and echo-soaked vocals are still delivered with euphoric rushes of drums and a general feeling of enrapturement. The trio goes to emotional extremes during the most ambitious piece, "Chronology," which begins as a dizzying splatter attack before a lonesome voice leads into a cloud of uncertainty, ending with harsh, stuttering edits taken from different live recordings of the group, forcing them to cooperate together. While challenging, the album seems to symbolize a struggle to achieve balance and harmony, and the results are frequently exciting.
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