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Cell / "SloBlo" DGC/Ecstatic Peace!

February 04, 1993|MIKE BOEHM

Maybe it has something to do with all those tall buildings in such a small slice of real estate, but Manhattan seems to spawn more than its share of rock bands that take an architectural approach to the electric guitar. Much of the pleasure in "SloBlo" comes from hearing Cell design unfolding riff structures in which most of the sonic girders are coated in a thick sludge of distortion. It's melodic sludge: Cell's twin-guitar throb echoes Neil Young & Crazy Horse more than the metallic-sounding Seattle bands.

Members of Sonic Youth had a lot to do with getting a major label deal for Cell, whose four players are veterans of unsung underground bands (the highest-profile precursor being bassist David Motamed's former band, Das Damen). But most of "SloBlo" sounds closer to the stately guitar arrangements of the recently reunited '70s New York band Television than to the dissonant, frenzied tunneling of Sonic Youth.

Cell abides by the current grunge-rock rules with terse, impressionistic lyrics that Jerry DiRienzo delivers balefully in his grainy, chesty-nasal voice. Although the words are few and mainly express inward states of mind (generally gloom or bewilderment), Cell reaches outward with music that strives for epic grandeur and achieves it by virtue of graceful guitar constructs. At its best, on "Everything Turns,"

Cell evokes both the thrill and the disorientation that come with rapid change. In the final track, "Hills," guitars race and soar at the end in something approaching joyous flight, striving to break free of the encumbered moods that have gone before.

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