Roberto Opalio - "The last night of the Anfel of Glass, Vol.I & II" 2xCD (A Silent Place)

"Recorded as usual with no overdubs, no outtakes, one half of My Cat is an Alien, Roberto Opalio plays electric astral guitar, space toys, alientronics and shares in a fair amount of his vocals. Volume I of this 2 CD set was already issued by Foxglove as a limited edition CD-R/DVD-R. The release was meant as a soundtrack to Opalio's film. Disc one is made up of 46 minute long slab of audio material that features large doses of Opalio's vocals. These are processed and covered up to make them sound like one of the instruments he's playing. His ever present astral guitar makes meandering segways through the piece and comes flying in and out of audible range. Midway through the piece, Opalio's voice sounds like a huge choral section reciting a mantra. The sameness of this part deserves an honourable mention as these voices make me think of aliens screaming. With gentle tickling on the toy piano, the last fifteen minutes of the piece are nothing but anti-climactic. Not surprising, this is another very coherent piece from this Italian space traveler.
A gently ticking keyboard begins Vol. II. Opalio starts to annunciate some incoherent phrases and sections of words that don't amount to very much. Only about ten minutes into the piece, just as Opalio's voice starts to resemble a tortured cat, does the piece pick up in intensity. A wad of electronic toys and that lovely astral guitar make for a gurgling noise that continues to caress the ears for a few minutes. The tempo and pitch grow proportionately and the music falls into the far-out space category for about ten minutes or so. As if to announce, "ladies and gentlemen, we've just successfully cleared the asteroid field", music calms down and Opalio reverts back to his choral section. I swear there are moments when he starts to resemble the vocal machinations of an earlier Robert Wyatt. Guitar starts to be reminiscent of falling space junk and the space toys sound like seagulls. All is well in the universe once again. Soothing and entirely exciting, this is the sort of music I'd like to tag along for my first journey in space."
(Tom Sekowski, April 2007, Gaz-Eta)

- MY CAT IS AN ALIEN - "The Cosmological Eye Trilogy" 3xCD set (Last Visible Dog)
- MY CAT IS AN ALIEN / GLANDS OF EXTERNAL SECRETION + NELS CLINE - "From The Earth to the Spheres, Vol. 6" split ART-LP (Opax Records) / CD (Very Friendly/Cargo UK)
- MY CAT IS AN ALIEN / TEXT OF LIGHT - "Cosmic Debris, Vol. 1" split ART-LP (Opax Records) / CD (A Silent Place)
- MY CAT IS AN ALIEN - "Greetings from the Great Void" 2xLP / CD (Eclipse Records)
- MY CAT IS AN ALIEN - "Il Suono Venuto Dallo Spazio" CD (Les Disques Victo)
- PAINTING PETALS ON PLANET GHOST - "s/t" LP / CD (Time-Lag Records)
- PRAXINOSCOPE - "Epocsonixarp" LP / CD-R (Opax Records)

"Just because I'm not a big fan of cats [I'm more of a dog person], doesn't mean I can't indulge in a little Cat music when the mood strikes. The Opalio brothers - My Cat is an Alien - whip up a fury of new releases, each one better than the next; each one with a unique flare for the cosmos.

Originally released as highly limited CD-R issues [numbering a pressing of mere 175 copies], "The Cosmological Eye Trilogy" 3 CD re-issue is an important step in tracing the duo's development before they became a semi-household name. On the first disc, the brothers rally up the sounds, as both drum up nicely layered galaxy resonance on their electric alien guitar drone and electric space guitars. The 55 minute "Into the Sleeping Beauty Galaxy" features heavy doses of phantasmagorical revving up of guitars, along with some inaudible voices. About mid-way through, they change gears and decide to pull a left around Saturn to take us into a heavier dose of guitar-cacophony glistening with occasional cymbal crashes [courtesy of Viggiu Vortex]. Their space toys help along in disparate amusement but for the most part, the flow is smooth and galaxies open up nice and wide. The journey is one of adventure, mesmerizing tone bursts and wildly, hypnotic aural visions. Once we get around to the second disc, the sounds take on a new intensity. While the brief "The Helix Nebula" retains a familiar bubbly drone sound, the 40 minute long "Into the Sombrero Galaxy" is a different animal altogether. Its reliance on echo-chamber percussive orgies is quite evident. Without exaggeration, the brothers take it upon themselves to take full advantage of their cosmic and space percussion. Rambling, swiftly reverberating, these improvisations are akin to what dub may sound in a weightless environment. As the percussive mass subsides, we're faced with a gentle gurgling, hum-like noise that persists until the end of the piece. The final piece "The Trifid Nebula" is all over the map. From gently-humming winds of guitar sound, through to tinkering of various chimes and bells, the nebula is explored with gentle delicacy and persistence. "Into the Whirlpool Galaxy" which starts off the third disc in this lavish set is a mesmerizing experience in itself. Much of the piece ends up sounding like large herds of crickets awestruck by the sound of the cosmos. The sound intensifies and dies down at will, while the speed of delivery retains its normal, medium speed. Sometimes rough, while other times quite lulling, the piece moves the listener to another galaxy, far, far away. The final piece of the set, "The Orion Nebula" takes the listener front and center into a gently barraging wave of oscillators that permeate the audio atmosphere. For the next 35 minutes, its relaxing tone sets the mood. Between the haze and the foggy notion of minimal alien guitars and space toys, the brothers once again succeed in presenting their own unique version of a dark and lonely place.

Subtlety is the order of the day for at least half of the latest installment of "From the Earth to the Spheres" split LP series, which this time around features the work of Glands of External Secretion. Through half of their "Icebox" track, they rely on tape loops and what could pass for field recordings to set up a moody sequence of aural pleasure. Just as your ears are starting to attune to the calmness, Nels Cline steps in to disrupt the near dead-quiet sounds. His raging lap steel guitar solo goes on for a good few minutes, before it's re-processed into cosmic sounds and before the calmness reappears. Strange track indeed. The Opalio brothers treat us to a shimmering display of spiritual chaos on the 21 minute excursion "After the Meteor Shower". This chaotic display of gentle space buzzing continues on, until its intensity naturally - as if by some sort of natural force - dies down. Ton of scraping guitar melting, boggling electronics with brain-gushing feedback and grating, sorcery sound - like a burnt out asteroid, by the end of the piece, Maurizio and Roberto realize they can only carry the torch for this concoction for so long.

The first chapter in MCIAA's "Cosmic Debris" series of split LPs sees an awesome duo of MCIAA and Text of Light, each grouping gracing one side of the album. Text of Light was originally set up to improvise music to the films of Stan Brakhage and other members of the American Avante-Garde cinema. Their contribution to the series, "033103 Paris" is an awesome exercise in cacophony. Lee Ranaldo and Alan Licht do an ear-gushing job on their respective guitars, playing around with feedback and delays, while DJ Olive wrestles with the sound on his turntables. Saxophonist Ulrich Krieger blows furious lines into his sax, while Tim Barnes demolishes his drum set while playing as harshly as he possibly can. Furious, demented and full of lively energy, the piece is a free for all of the best kind. MCIAA's contribution is an almost 20 minute long "Everything Falls Like Cosmic Debris". Full of bells and space guitars, the piece picks up momentum around the mid-way point as a galaxy-like sound permeates everything in sight. Blistering and popping asteroid sounds [space guitars, toy piano, and space percussion] create a highly spooky, spacey atmosphere that is warm and lush.

Noisier than most of their releases, "Greetings from the Great Void" features only five tracks, two of which come close to the 25 minute mark. On the opening "Here on the Sad Planet", both brothers employ their guitars [electric alien and electric astral variety] to come up with a dense wall of noise, while "No Human Can See" features an exuberant amount of mini-xylophone and a ton of space toys that create a nice, fuzzy space effect. The album's closer "Goodbye Earth" is gentle tinkling of bells supplanted by some asteroid effects. Perhaps the greatest piece on the record is the longish "Leave me in Space". Through its 24 minute duration, we're treated to a real space journey that features a generous amount of clicking bells, crazed, hyper-active percussion [which leads the way in a rhythmic pattern much of the way] and a generous portion of total and complete chaos. Could this be My Cat is an Alien record by which all other MCIAA releases will be judged?

Speaking of judging great releases, their most recent live release "Il Suono Venuto Dallo Spazio" is one that will open a lot of peoples' ears to their music. Recorded at this year's FIMAV, the record is slightly more intense in parts than its predecessors. While the first part of the concert started off almost pleasantly - with bits and pieces of percussion and a wall of cosmic guitar - midway through, the space guitars became excessively noisy. We're talking feedback, Haino-fest territory here. This is take-no-prisoners stuff. With a wall of sound this thick, something has to give. When it stops, various bells and percussive tools are at play again, while cosmic guitars settle down. While the noise comes in and out a few times, a break arrives with a lovely mini xylophone solo that is accompanied by occasional strikes of a tom-tom. The brothers go into interstellar overdrive near the end of the piece, as they create an even thicker, higher pitched cacophony that is difficult on the ears. Part two is equally as noisy [a ton of electronics give an appearance of a stellar, sparkling galaxy], though it does have a few "tender" moments that allow the listener to concentrate on the details. I have a gut feeling the Opalio brothers wanted to make a stark impression on the audience at this year's Victo. The audience had to be shocked and rattled. Which leaves me with a final observation - you'll either love this concert or you'll absolutely despise it. It's hard to be indifferent when you're faced with these sounds.

Take everything My Cat is an Alien is, then forget that you've ever heard the band's music, close your eyes, all relaxed and rested Painting Petals on Planet Ghost, which features the Opalio brothers, along with their long-time partner/collaborator/manager Ramona Ponzini is a different animal altogether. If you were to shave the edges off the band's chaotic presentation, if you could discount their forceful improvisations and tone the music down by a few notches, you would perhaps arrive at the sound of this trio. To say that much of their music is meditative would be an understatement. On "Haru No Hi Ni", Ramona's delicately flowing vocals grace the sound of gentle acoustic guitar picking and a few percussive clicks, while "Sakura No Hana No Oto Ga Kikoeru" is a ponderous study on the sound of the bells, gentle toy piano clicking and a softer-than-soft vocal accompaniment by Ramona. Sure, there is some actual movement on a couple of the pieces, but even this is done in a nonchalant, very drone-like fashion. Sweetly understated and poetic with a capital P, this release sees a new chapter opening up in the life of the Opalio brothers.

Take away Maurizio from the previous trio and you've got yourself Praxinoscope. Ramona and Roberto play a variety of instruments on one 30 minute track. Everything from Japanese bells, wind chimes, wooden percussion, and toy piano to faint whispered vocals are featured. The way the music is structured is in a highly non-linear fashion. There is no beginning, middle or end but rather we get an edited glimpse into what I think may have been a much longer improvisation. Large chunk of the piece is taken up by gentle back-and-forth trading of tinkling of Japanese bells, wind chimes and toy piano. With no rhyme or reason [and what seems like no particular destination in mind], the duo revel up the perfect atmospherics and music that is sleep-inducing, trance-heavy and calming in one, long, peaceful breath."
(Tom Sekowski, December 2006, Gaz-Eta)

Thurston Moore / My Cat Is An Alien - "From the Earth to the Spheres, Vol. 1" split ART-LP (Opax Records)/ CD (Very Friendly/Cargo UK)
Thuja / My Cat Is An Alien - "From the Earth to the Spheres, Vol. 2" split ART-LP (Opax Records)/ CD (Very Friendly/Cargo UK)
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)
Jim O'rourke / My Cat Is An Alien - "From the Earth to the Spheres, Vol. 4" split ART-LP (Opax Records)
Christina Carter / My Cat Is An Alien - "From the Earth to the Spheres, Vol. 5" split ART-LP (Opax Records)/ CD (Very Friendly/Cargo UK)
My Cat Is An Alien - "On Air at Sound Projecting" CD-R (Opax Records)
My Cat Is An Alien - "Through The Reflex of the Rain" CD (Free Porcupine Society)
Roberto Opalio - "Chants from Isolated Ghosts" CD-R (Opax Records)

Italian duo My Cat is an Alien is a band that more people have heard about than actually heard. This is all about to change as their own Opax label has unleashed a slew of releases that act as a good starting point in unraveling a mystery that is this band.
One of the highlights of the band's output is an on-going split LP series "From the Earth to the Spheres", which features the MCIAA on one side of the record and a guest on the second side [actually, it looks like the guests get star billing and actually appear on side A]. Each of these releases comes as a highly limited LP only release of 100 copies, complete with gorgeous artwork from Roberto Opalio.
First installment of this series features Thurston Moore in a jovial mood. Recorded in 2004 at Answering Machine [which I think in this case, may actually mean his answering machine, as the lo-fi factor is evident in the sound], on "American Coffin" Thurston protrudes and attacks the piano in a Tayloresque style, then goes on to add some feedback and fuzzy sonic manipulations. The ending of the track is a mysteriously calm, thought-provoking piano adulation. What you make of the track is up to you. I for one, found this one of the most interesting examples of Thurston stretching out in directions he's rarely explored. My Cat is an Alien's contribution on this LP is definitely spooky. Brothers Maurizio and Roberto Opalio mess about with various space toys, mini-casios, toy mics and pocket theremins to create an effect that is as space-like as it is daring. Echoes pop in and out of the picture and the sounds are quite cavernous. The subtle guitar effects add a nice touch in the mix, while the overt use of feedback towards the end of the piece makes this sound like a messed up battle in outer galaxy.
Thuja's "The Magma is the Brother of the Stone" is a piece worthy of an honourable mention in the fact of how close it comes to MCIAA's aesthetic. The trio produce drones that are other-worldly, yet warm. They're ominous but at the same time inviting. Gentle plucking on the guitar, together with percussive elements creates subtle and haunting warmth to the track. This is definitely a piece that can be played over and over again without boredom setting in. My Cat is an Alien's "When the Earth Whispered Your Name" is a similar story. The Opalio duo use drones masterfully to create a reverberating soundscape. You can almost hear the sparkling of the outer omniverse when you listen to this piece. It's almost as if this was the soundtrack to your own private "space". Once again, we have proof that this is beautifully crafted music.
Volume 3 of the "From the Earth to the Spheres" series features west coast sensation Jackie-O Motherfucker. "Breaking" is a piece that ponders that natural beauty of the cosmos. With light additions on the piano, some freak-out effects, subtle squeaking and a gentle off-pace heartbeat as its core, the piece succeeds at creating an analogue version of a personal space. This is something that machines would have difficulties in recreating. It's incredible just how much you can do with so little. Breath-taking sounds that will delight all choosy space travelers. "Blank View" gives the Opalio brothers ample room to stretch out and add some space percussion to the repertoire. As always, dark and ominous, this is music to take in slowly, which is exactly how is evolves. This is no rat race to the finish. First to the finish line does not get the medal. Rather, it's the one that knows the journey is about the feel, atmosphere and a keen sense for the sounds.
Jim O'Rourke's "Some kind of" is a solo guitar piece that dates back to 1988. There are lots of scraping noises, echo effects and drones spread throughout the piece to make this one an instant classic. But don't be scared, as this is a very approachable piece, one that draws you in and doesn't let go until the 17 minute duration has expired. Another wonderful example of the many permutations a guitar can undergo. MCIAA's contribution entitled "Winter will burn out yr wings" features some oddly placed percussive sounds and then transforms itself into a mellow guitar piece that just floats high up in the outer universe. Perhaps wanting to be at utter peace with themselves, this is the most serene MCIAA piece I'd heard the duo produce. This is one heart-breaking piece and is as close as MCIAA has come to a space ballad.
Christina Carter's contribution in Volume 5 of the series, called "We know when we are thinking about each other" is bound to take you by surprise. Sparse guitar lines are interspersed with Christina's lush vocals. All of this is bathed in a darkened humming drone. The track develops slowly and doesn't reach any sort of a climax altogether, which is a good thing [you can't always climax in music at least!]. A very satisfying meditation indeed. "The Circle of Life & Death" is MCIAA's more percussive contemplation. Various bells and cymbals are heard floating above the drone-like guitars and theremin to produce a barren landscape of drought and calmness. Effective use of softer feedback simply adds brilliant colours to the mix. The piece climaxes with overt amounts of feedback and effects, almost as if to say, "we've arrived at our destination, it's time for a take-off!"
"On Air at Sound Projecting" is a live recording from Dec. 2004 done on Ed Pinsent's "Sound Projecting" radio show on Resonance FM. I remember doing radio sessions such as this one with various musicians. Whether one party would add the sound of scratched-up CDs or even the sound of ones vocals coming through the airwaves, each session turned out to be a blast. In similar fashion, Ed Pinsent made this a truly collaborative effort as he utilized some turntables in the background for this session. The overall feel of the session is rather more sparse, though the lo-fi quality adds a certain charm to it. The Opalio brothers overuse the pocket theremin with good effect. Space toys create such a ruckus that by the end of the session your ears will be literally bleeding as the high pitches control the space airways. Though this turned out to be a successful session, this is something that is solely recommended for serious fans only.
"Through the Reflex of the Rain" represents one of the more recent proper CD releases for the band. [You're never quite sure what the most recent release is as so many have erupted in the pipeline.] During the 40 minute duration, the Opalio brothers cement their relationship with the universe, as they unleash barrages of drone feedback, coupled with strange effects and echo-chamber permutations. As usual, the piece evolves very slowly, sucking the listener in from the very start. To call this piece haunting would be a disservice. Rather, this is exceptional evocative music that could only be produced in isolation, in an air-tight chamber. The cherry on top is the gorgeous art work produced by Rob Fisk.
Finally, we come to a solo project by Roberto Opalio [the more artistic half of the MCIAA duo?] called "Chants from Isolated Ghosts". This is the most barren and the most effectively minimal work out of this bunch of releases. Perhaps it's the further isolation in the recording studio or perhaps it's the total freedom that going solo allows. The sounds are drone-inducing [as always] but very economically used. Most of the record sounds almost as if it were processed through a cooling fan. It's almost as if on this record, Roberto wanted to stick to only what's essential. In a very non-threatening way, this is an absolutely essential record.
If Sun Ra was still with us on this planet, he would certainly be proud of his children.
(Tom Sekowski, May 2005, Gaz-Eta #31)