My Cat Is An Alien - "…Ascends the Sky" CD (Rebis / Whitened Sepulchre)

Whitened Sepulchre is a new sub-label of Rebis Productions, an imprint curated by none other than Chicago's high-orbit drone kings, Number None. The main vision for Whitened Sepulchre is, according to the Rebis website, "dedicated to reissuing and preserving key recordings of the New Electronic Sublime." That's some pretty heavy territory these boys are treading - and they've started out on the right foot; the first WS release is an early recording from Italy's favourite rocketeers My Cat is an Alien. "Ascends the Sky" was originally released as a limited run CD-R on the band's own Opax Records and came housed in wooden sleeves, hand-painted by Roberto Opalio himself. Roberto and his brother Maurizio together create the cosmic incantations credited to MCIAA.
This ambitious 70-minute disc begins with a newer track, "Meditation on '...Ascends the Sky'" and immediately takes the sonic spaceship into uncharted regions of the cosmos. Textured drones, alien howling and astral chimes (courtesy of frequent collaborator Ramona Ponzini) are bound to a deep throbbing drum pulse. This hypnotic 20-minute piece is perfect fodder for inner space exploration, as is most of what I've heard from the Opalio brothers.
The original CD-R material encompasses the remainder of the disc, and is a spellbinding set of melodious yet dramatic mood music with lyrics provided by William Blake's poem "Morning." The final line of the poem is pure magic, and is as precise a description of the music of My Cat is an Alien as there can possibly be: "The Sun is freed from fears/And with soft grateful tears/Ascends the sky." The Opalio brothers have translated the harmonies of the heavenly bodies into a language palatable by the human mind, and there's nothing you can do but immerse yourself in the warm wash of sound. Do not resist, as resistance is futile.
(Bryon Hayes, October 2006, Foxy Digitalis)

Painting Petals On Planet Ghost - "s/t" LP (Time-Lag Records)

Painting Petals On Planet Ghost is a new project featuring space feline brothers, Maurizio & Roberto Opalio, and their longtime partner-in-crime, Ramona Ponzini. Ponzini also appeared on a duo album with Roberto last year, Praxinoscope. With that in mind, don't expect this to sound like My Cat is an Alien with an extra collaborator. No, Painting Petals on Planet Ghost traverses new ground, staying away from the extended splendid cosmic explorations that MCIAA have become known for.

Make no mistake about it, Ponzini is the shining star here. Her tentative, beautiful voice is like a beacon leading the brothers, like moths to a lamp, toward their destiny. Unless you're fluent in Japanese, you're not likely to have any idea what Ponzini is singing. As she recites various Japanese poems, the Opalio brothers paint an aural backdrop of loneliness and desolation. These songs are like the last will and testament of someone stranded in the middle of nowhere. This is their message in a bottle.

Most haunting is "Haru No Hi Ni." The Opalio's solemn acoustic guitar plucks reek of desperation. Hearing it over and over again, I feel like someone is ripping my heart from my chest. Ponzini's voice floats above the surface, doing its best to stay on top of the wreckage. Each note is like a tiny dagger filled with the worst kind of poison. Simplicity is the best weapon here, and the trio absolutely nails it. This is one of the year's best songs, hands down.

Elsewhere on this record, the backing instrumentation is even more minimal, but still works. The opener, "Sakura No Hana No Oto Ga Kikoeru," features little more than the gentle clanging of chromatic percussion underneath Ponzini's incantations. And at the beginning of the closing piece, "Sakurabana," the trio returns to this format. As it moves forward, the brothers add melancholy drones with (what I think is) an antique accordian. The dichotomy of this and the percussion at the beginning only adds to the longing in the piece. It settles itself right into your bones.

Painting Petals on Planet Ghost shows the Opalio brothers in top form. The addition of Ramona Ponzini adds an entirely new dimension to their sonic attack. The subtleties of this record are what make it so great. Well, that and the fact that Ponzini's vocals are completely mesmerizing. Add to that the typically beautiful Time-Lag packaging, and you've got something essential on your hands. I can only hope that this project will be back with more sometime down the road. Painting Petals on Planet Ghost debut is absolute magic.
(Brad Rose, April 2006, Foxy Digitalis online music magazine)

My Cat Is an Alien - "The Cosmological Eye Trilogy" 3CD set (Last Visible Dog)
Rating: 10

My Cat is an Alien are one of the most prolific bands on the planet. These enigmatic Italians often inspire extreme emotions in music fans. Either you love them or you hate them. I've yet to meet somebody who sort of likes them or is kind of the into them. Everyone I've had conversations with about My Cat is an Alien falls squarely into one of those two camps. But I think that's a good thing and shows that the Opalio brothers are doing something right.

With so many releases to choose from, it's hard to know where to begin for those unfamiliar with MCIAA's spacephoric jams. Thankfully, our friends at Last Visible Dog have solved that problem with an intergalactic bang. "The Cosmological Eye Trilogy" is three CDs and almost 3 1/2 hours of music. If it sounds intimidating, it is. But once you look this monster straight in the face, you'll be well rewarded for your efforts.

From the beginning of "The Cosmological Eye Introduction" on disc one to "The Orion Nebula" on disc three, your brain is replaced with stardust. The vast spaces traversed on these recordings is mind blowing. The only other group that utilizes empty space as an instrument in-and-of itself this well is Charalambides. It's like some sort of aural personification of the kinetic energy that exists between Roberto and Maurizio Opalio. For lack of a better word, it's dazzling. Everytime their stellar soundwaves emanate from my speakers, I'm like a moth to a lightbulb. I zone out and am completely entranced by this music. Hushed beeps and glacial guitar drones do me in everytime. Add in various other cosmic debris like reverb-soaked vocal howls, cymbal bursts, and various other space toys and MCIAA stretch out toward the horizon like varicose veins to the sun.

There is so much music here that it's monolithic. But there is much beauty to be found in the "The Cosmological Eye Trilogy." My Cat is an Alien are determined to take you on a journey through the darkest corners and deepest crevices of the galaxy. This is essential music.
(Brad Rose, January 2006, Foxy Digitalis)


PRAXINOSCOPE - "s/t" CD-R (2005/ Opax Records)

Oklahoma is full of open spaces and windswept plains. People often underestimate how much beauty there is in these simplistic landscapes. The majesty is derived from the serenity. My favorite moments driving from St. Louis back to Tulsa is the transition from the Ozark hills of Missouri to the endless open spaces, covered in green grass and wildflowers, that dominate Eastern Oklahoma. It's magical to me and ridiculously inspiring.
What does any of this have to do with Praxinoscope? Everything and nothing, really. First off, Praxinoscope is a new Italian duo featuring Roberto Opalio (1/2 of the the space-brother duo, My Cat is an Alien) and long-time MCIAA collaborator, Ramona Ponzini (the two also have a project with the other Opalio, Maurizio called Painting Planets on Petal Ghost). This project traverses a similar terrain as MCIAA, but is perhaps closer to Roberto's brilliant solo album, "Chants From Isolated Ghosts."
Opalio's vocals star here, taking the limelight and thriving inside it. Effects drench his voice making it something truly not of this world. These lunar oceans of sound are magnificent and totally enthralling. It's as though he's a cosmonaut trapped inside a glass box, unable to travel the reaches of space. Such confinement derails your mind and Opalio sounds like a person struggling against himself. At times, hearing this is almost too much - there's simultaneous discomfort and exorcism happening and you can't quite focus intently on either. You are a passive player in this exercise, lost in the crevices Opalio and Ponzini create.
I cannot discount Ponzini's contributions to this 40 minute piece, either. While it may seem minimal on the surface, her various "Japanese percussions" (mostly chromatics, cymbals, and the like) add a great deal of needed texture to counterbalance Opalio's haunted wails. It is reminiscent of the way Finnish master, Keijo, works in a lot of percussive elements to his tracks. And it has the same effect.
Praxinoscope is a great new project from the always wonderful My Cat is an Alien. This is one of Opax's finest releases. Bringing to mind the vocal transcendence of the Skaters, Praxinoscope are proof that you don't need any instruments to make amazing sounds. This is wonderful, wonderful music.-
(Brad Rose, 2005, Foxy Digitalis online music magazine)


MY CAT IS AN ALIEN - "Different shades of blue" CD-R (U-Sound Archive, Vol.19)

Volume 19 of Tom Greenwood’s U-sound Archive is another bout of glittering jewels, sputtering star systems and piercing high drones courtesy of your favourite astral-obsessed Italian duo. Consisting of a single track clocking in at almost fifty minutes, this is a recording of an improvisation at the MCIIA “Space Room” in Torino, and features the usual gamut of massively effected guitars, “Uranian percussions”, toy instruments and probably just toys added on top.
Though MCIIA take a similar approach to improvised drones as the more recent incarnation of The Telescopes, they back off from the heady rush of roaring noise in favour of sculpting electronic textural arrays and telephonic spires of oscillating drone that stand in bubbling gulches of space-ooze. Everything is grounded, but not quite steady. The signals they transmit from their observation towers are constant but not stable. As one loop or sample splays outward, another is being tightly twisted by mellifluous ride cymbal or daringly struck by stark hammered guitar. As ever, their sonic output is at once reassuringly recognisable but still disconcertingly bizarre, forever reaching upwards and outwards, seeking to escape the confines of gravity and atmosphere in favour of celestial salvation.-
(Dave Stockwell, 2005, Foxi Digitalis online music magazine)


ROBERTO OPALIO - "Chants from isolated ghosts" CD-R/ lathe-cut LP (Opax Records)

Roberto Opalio forms one-half of the Italian dynamic duo, My Cat is an Alien. To say that MCIAA has become one of my absolute favorite groups in the past few months is a bit of an understatement. During the past year or so, a period in which the duo has released a mountain of space magic, Opalio also found the time to put together a solo album that stands up to any of MCIAA's best works.
"Chants From Isolated Ghosts" is an echo chamber filled with brazen spirits, spelunking the furthest depths of the earth. Three tracks make up this cosmic splurge, and all of them traverse a similar, if not more sparse, plane as MCIAA. Opalio is at his best when he's at his most minimal. The opening tack features barely-there vocals and guitar hum. All the while, the sound of a car alarm or tazer (take your pick) floats in the backdrop. It's an ethereal gem. As it dissolves into a clattering of chimes and archaic guitar wailing, there's a feeling that whatever spirits were trapped, have now been set free. It soars.
The second and third tracks are even more minimalist, but equally impressive. The second has the feeling of being lost underwater, watching as deep sea creatures show off their bioelectrics. It's easy to get sucked into this icy void the track creates. Opalio's vocal exorcisms throughout the album are like a haunted excursion through a winter forest. Everything is stripped of color and life, but the voice adds immense texture and warmth. On the third track, this effect is most powerful. It's a wonderful end to a wonderful album.
This past year has demonstrated one thing clearly to me: the Opalio brothers are among the most talented artists on the planet. Between solo releases and MCIAA, it doesn't get much better. If you've missed the boat, now is as good a time as any to jump on.
(Brad Rose, 2005, Foxi Digitalis online music magazine)


MY CAT IS AN ALIEN - "Through the reflex of the rain" CD (Free Porcupine Society)

Hailing from the beautiful confines of Torino, Italy, the experimental-brother duo of Maurizio and Roberto Opalio, My Cat is an Alien, offer up a thick slab of spaced out treachery on their latest CD release from San Francisco's Free Porcupine Society. My Cat is an Alien have morphed and tweaked their sound over the years to reach the pinnacle of blissed out catatonia. "Through the Reflex of Rain" consists of one 40 minute excursion through the depths of space and into the core of the earth.
As you'd expect with any extended piece like this, it starts of slow, searching for its footing so it can pick up steam. It's a difficult task to hold back enough to let the track unfold on its own. Less skilled artists might be tempted to force it and railroad the whole thing. But the Opalio brothers let this thing move at snailspeed, only urging it along slightly when it gets caught in a rut.
The music on this piece ranges from the monotone drones that sound like a treated dialtone to flourishes of percussion and to the crescendo of droning, majestic guitars. While much of this track has a cold, desolate feel to it, the ending is warm and sublime. Throughout this extended journey, Roberto and Maurizio convey a wide range of vivid imagery. Gentle glockenspiel chiming hints at the twinkling of stars or the formation of ice, while dense guitar soundscapes give an aural depiction of the vacuum of space. All of these things work together to write what could be a great science-fiction novel. It's that dense.
The highlight, though, remains the end. At about the 30 minute mark, the brothers both arm themselves with electric guitars and delay. The rich tones the two extract from their instruments work together like magic. It reminds me of all those diagrams I used to see of the center of the earth: full of bright oranges and yellows, you can't help but feel heat dripping out of your speakers. This is a cathartic psychedelic exorcism that will infect you.
I was late to get on the My Cat is an Alien train, but now that I've been hooked, I'm addicted. This is a great band making great, starkissed music. Roberto and Maurizio Opalio are the new kings of the solar system, and their reign will be nothing but superb.
(Brad Rose, 2005, Foxi Digitalis online music magazine)


VARIOUS ARTISTS - "Time and relative dimensions in space" CD (Rebis)

[...] My Cat is an Alien have stolen my soul over the past few months. Something about their cosmic jams infects me, and the wonderful "Alien Substratum 1.0/1.2" is now different. Spiralling electric guitar flashes dangle above a pulsing drone that is just barely audible. This is the music of the stars, singing out and surrendering. If I'm ever abducted, I hope it sounds like this. I can't believe it took me so long to jump on the MCIAA bandwagon, but now I'm never getting off.[...]
(Brad Rose, 2005, Foxi Digitalis online music magazine)


VARIOUS ARTISTS - "The Tone of the Universe (= The Tone of the Earth)" CD (Pseudoarcana)

[...] the compilation’s conclusion: My Cat Is An Alien performing their well-established whirring clustered raygun drones with space echoes and controlled feedback, a repeated loop of a human voice amongst the ether and distant bleeps and bloops from forgotten satellites, lost and drifting further away, perhaps towards the source of this great Bb drone which resonates at some 57 octaves below tones discernable to the human ear.[...]
(Dave Stockwell, 2005, Foxi Digitalis online music magazine)


JACKIE-O MOTHERFUCKER/ MY CAT IS AN ALIEN - "From the earth to the Spheres, vol.3" split ART-LP (Opax Records)/ CD (Very Friendly/Cargo UK)

Over the years, Jackie-o Motherfucker (JOMF) has carved a niche for themselves seamlessly blending musical expressions as diverse as avant garde and free jazz and Appalachian folk. There may be others that play with the same elements, but few that result in such a distinctive sound. Despite the breadth of influences, the band always manages to develop coherent improvisations from the various strands.
One of the reasons for the band’s success has been the interplay between the members. The core set of musicians on each successive release became more and more cohesive. On their contribution to this entry in the split series curated by Maurizio and Roberto Opalio (aka My Cat is an Alien / MCIAA), JOMF includes two relatively new additions (Adam Forkner and Honey Owens from White Rainbow records, Yume Bitsu, etc.). Whether it’s the change in personnel or the admirable desire to make music for the split series that goes well outside their boundaries of comfort, the magic that graced other JOMF releases has eluded this one. The JOMF track is called “Breaking” and it is apt.
I’m a firm believer that song titles can enhance the experience of the music they describe. However, in this case, the title becomes an excuse to explain why the piece it names does not hang together. It is at best an apology and at worst, a rationalization. There are definitely some great moments on this track (the fragmented vocal incantation in the intro, the swelling outro of saxophone, crackling vinyl and synthesizer squiggles), but there are also those parts that in the final analysis don’t contribute much.
For example, the center of the piece is dominated by a recording of a telephone conversation in which someone in the band calls directory assistance to try to find out the number for the city zoo in Saskatchewan (among other things). It is a clever lampooning of directory assistance’s tendency to masquerade as the more privileged and general “information” (the operator does not know the capital of Saskatchewan – it’s Regina - and seems confused when this piece of “information” cannot be provided by the caller), but it becomes distracting upon repetition. Ultimately, the piece as a whole seems scattered, and it does not add up to the type of compelling, well-developed improvisation for which the band is rightfully known.
The MCIAA track (“Blank View”) is a different animal altogether. There is no “breaking” in “Blank View”; each element is carefully introduced and never overstays its welcome before morphing into an adjacent texture or rhythm. Over the course of the piece it never strays far from a constant levitating undercurrent; this is truly music that inhabits the space between the Earth and the Spheres.
“Blank View” starts off with a slow drum and cymbal beat amidst a whirl of ringing guitars. Eventually, the guitars come to the foreground and waver and hover - seemingly floating in air. The guitars dance around each other creating their own rhythm so completely that by the time the drums have slowly worked their way back into the mix, it is their reappearance alone that makes one realize their absence. In fact one of the mind-bending aspects of the performance is how closely the timbres of heavily processed guitar and cymbals can be and the line between them is not always easy to discern. The remarkable constancy (not stagnation) of the improvisation means that motifs can be reintroduced in slight variations and just as the difference between instruments is blurred so too in the trancelike state the music induces one often “hears” phantom echoes that evaporate on closer examination.
Roberto Opalio’s beautifully textured artwork and the MCIAA track alone makes this volume worth owning and it may well be that JOMF’s contribution will emerge in light of later directions to be a transitional work rather than a side trip. Only time will tell.
(Steve Rybicki, 2005, Foxi Digitalis online music magazine)


THURSTON MOORE/MY CAT IS AN ALIEN - "From The Earth To The Spheres, Vol. 1"
ART-LP (Opax Records) / CD (Very Friendly/Cargo records)

Thurston Moore has been a long time fan of the amazing Italian My Cat Is An Alien duo and after having played gigs together and released some of their out of print records on his own Ecstatic Peace label it’s logical that they team up for a split release. This is the first release in a new series of split releases entitled "From the Earth to the Spheres" and you might as well want to grab volume 2 right away as it besides MCIAA also includes the of transcendental sounds of the amazing San Francisco quartet Thuja.

But let’s head back to the two epic tracks on this album. Moore is first out with “American Coffin”, which kicks off with a wild, avant-gardish section that features equal parts fragmented piano, weird sonic collages and shards of guitar feedback. I have to say that the slightly Stockhausen-esque introduction initially puzzles more than it pleases but the further in we get the more sense it makes. And the closing minutes are just pure piano bliss that provides an almost perfect abstract mood of reverie and a slightly melancholic foundation that MCIAA can build their track from. That being said, it’s not really obvious when the first track moves into the next, and that’s a great compliment given how different they in terms of sonic structure. Just like the title of the track (“Brilliance in the Outer Space”) may indicate, we get to see a close-up of a sound sculpture that evolves slowly and explores the sonic depth of minimal guitar textures in a very impressive way. It shimmers, drones and pulsates through its 21 minutes of dense ambient fog and more structured noise. The mood is mostly subdued though with guitar notes dropping like cosmic rain into a whirlpool of black wind and exploding in multiple directions simultaneously. “Brilliance in the Outer Space” seems to dictate its own space; by the time it’s over the track seems to have simultaneously begun and ended.
(Mats Gustafsson, 2004, Foxi Digitalis online music magazine)