My Cat Is An Alien - "When the windmill's whirl dies" LP (Eclipse Records)
Our prolific Italian brothers turn in another side-long
workout on the A side of this recent LP - the title track being a Roberto
Opalio poem, whose text is whispered in hushed tones over an ethereal
guitar/instrumental drone. The poem mourns the loss of light on earth
and an attempt to deal with the onset of darkness. Following a near-classical
poem form, the piece starts with a simple sunset on a Saturday evening,
but becomes universal as it grows into a sunset of cosmic proportions,
leaving the earth adrift and covered in "dark shadows". A sad
lamentation on the state of the poet becomes a grim verdict on the fate
of the universe; there's pathetic fallacy for you! I'm starting to figure
out this aspect of My Cat; they're like Romanticists, painting cosmic
fantasies and disasters that correspond to inner emotional or psychological
My Cat Is An Alien – “The rest is silence” 2xLP (Eclipse Records)
This fine double LP is the most accessible
thing I’ve heard yet from this duo. Four sides of long, trancey,
droney stuff, with lots of instrumental, sonic and lyrical diversions
along the way. The main pieces comprise very simple acoustic guitar phrases,
drawn out for a long time and repeated monotonously; there are also simple
melodic works, and doomy landscape renderings which get pretty noisy and
dark. Very little electric guitar on offer this time; no drums or percussion;
very little amplification and very sparing use of studio effects. Through
simple trancey repetition, MCIAA build up some very intense drones, pulses
and oscillations; you can get lost inside its minimal, limpid beauty.
MY CAT IS AN ALIEN - “IL SEGNO” USA Starlight Furniture Co. #20 vinyl LP (2003)
A fairly staggering new LP from the Opalio Brothers Maurizio and Roberto, the Italian guitar and noise duo who have become worryingly prolific already – almost as many releases notched up in their catalogue as NY guitarist Loren Mazza Cane Connors, and each one about as turgid! Besides the excessive double LP reviewed last issue, I’ve since picked up two of their limited-edition “art” pressings, which is to say CD-rs wrapped in handmade envelopes of artwork, on their own Opax label. Those are pretty unbearable for the most part, but admittedly do generate some moments of useful scuzzed-up noise. The Cosmological Eye Trilogy part one is a good one, although the treble CD set Out of The Blue, Into The White is definitely one to avoid – it has one CD of passable guitar screech, while the remainder is two hours’ worth of completely pointless amplifier hum with the sound of rainfall in the background! Now I come to think of it, that sounds pretty good…must play it again soon.
There’s the trouble with these goons, who only 8 years ago when lousy bands like Hovercraft were on the lips of everyone in London, would have been labelled with the same dumb tag of “spacerock” (which is to say not very good impersonations of 70s prog or krautrock) – they produce something so brilliantly simple and dumb that it borders on unlistenable, yet retains a compelling charm. This LP’s first side is dominated by the reading of a poem, “The Sign” – a bleak poem of alienation, nothingness, futility and despair, which is snarled by Roberto in broken, halting phrases, sounding for all the world like Alan Vega on skag. As he wanders through a desolate cityscape, the poet finds manifestations of his misery in everything he sees – street signs, broken windows, malfunctioning lights. It’s a downer – a real paean to disconnectedness. Behind this recital is joyless, endless drone of guitar sound, a whirling sensation of electric guitar strings strummed by a machine-like robot hand. The drummer, Viggiu Vortex, remains under-employed at this stage (although he lets rips later), occasionally tapping a cymbal or pushing a bass drum pedal in desultory, uncertain manner. Easy listening? Nope, it’s really tough going…but as dystopic sound-visions of the future (and the present) go, it’s pretty much unsurpassed. In any case, I’m sure you all need an antidote to the “happy, shiny, success” culture which is being constantly rammed down our throats, so this LP is clearly a good choice in that regard.
Steeping their every statement in metaphors of “aliens from outer space”, the work of the Opalio guys reflects their own spiritual desolation, a personal sense of exile and a state of mind heavy with the reek of existential despair. Far from psychedelic in outlook, their music is pure heroin music – wretched, strung-out, endlessly painful and emaciated. Good stuff! We’re still on side one…upon poem’s completion, the trio start to “freak out” in the most cold, clumsy and apathetic way imaginable, leading the listener off into an outer-space voyage across a universe that is a meaningless and empty void, where the stars never shine. Even Pink Floyd at their grimmest never managed anything like this! MCIAA start to get pretty rowdy, yet no more melodic…the guitars remain (like the Grim Reaper’s scythe) strangulated, chiming, instrument of death.
Side two continues this odyssey in like manner, all continuous
playing, and a chaotic jumble of clanking, halting guitar work, barely
propelled by leaden, lethargic drumming, starts to accumulate. No let-up
from the pallor of gloom seems apparent, although an insistent monotone
– most like one guitarist hitting the same note repeatedly –
does feature heavily, along with light feedback, droning guitars and chiming
guitars, and a toy piano making rattling and plunking sounds while attacked
in frenzied, spastic fashion. A remorselessly abstract workout, kind of
“cosmic” in imagery, but their overall project which seems
to find aliens everywhere (not just aliens masquerading as cats) is for
the most part earthbound, and very claustrophobic.
MY CAT IS AN ALIEN – “Landscapes
of an electric city / Hypnotic spaces”
An amazing three sided LP from the Opalio brothers, recorded in Italy in1999. The first two sides are devastating - mysterious guitarnoise improv, a long suite in three movements entitled 'Landscapes of an electric city',while the third side is an EP's worth of 'alien cat rock songs'. This is highly original music, but slow to kick off - the opening of 'Landscapes' is so downbeat and takes so long getting to the point that the casual listener may be tempted to shut it off, lose patience or throw the whole package out of the window. It's a quiet, solitary acoustic guitar picking out two notes, meandering on and on, and pausing to allow a shrill blast of electronic noise or rumble to come bursting in, intrusively. Why? It's bizarre - however the skeletal form soon gathers some meat on its bones, and the piece starts to takes shape after some 10-15 minutes - at which point the Opalio plan starts to become clearer. The riff grows into an evil counterpart of a Popol Vuh guitar figure, circular in shape, and picking up more gobbets of abstract noise from the second (electric) guitar which has been chuntering in the background. As we enter the electric city proper, it's twin electric guitars all the way, using that amplifier hum and the slightly muffled recording sound for all its worth - a bleating battle of clanging, fuzzy murk. Fans of early Crystallised Movements will certainly want to investigate at this point. This fascinating, relentless workout of crossed-axe devilry goes on for some time, and has a compelling and horrifying appeal. It isn't pretty music by any means, but its darkness remains true to the warped vision of urban misery and alienation that it aspires to depict. And we're not even at the end of side one yet! The next passage leans heavily on the echo chamber and spinning high-note string-wobblers that emulate the best of and the worst of Ash Ra Tempel - just managing to stay on the right side of chaos.
Side two starts off with a murmur which
resembles slow traffic sound and other city noises - perhaps some genuine
field recordings mixed in, as the weary brothers depict another grim working
day in the hellish city, mingling abstract groans and grinds with guitar
noise in a subtle, gritty melange of grey clouds and industrial waste.
Mournful acoustic guitar laments are layered on top - the unheard and
ignored voices of the oppressed. An oil refinery goes up in flames, and
no-one notices. The third movement is the most limpidly beautiful, long
and slow ambient rumbles with the odd guitarnote raised in protest. The
city claims more victims, crushing out their lives with slabs of solid
concrete and snuffing out souls through the sheer drudgery of work. And
how was your day? Hypnotic Spaces is a bonus EP of 3 songs spread out
into an LP side, and is a tad more conventional than the ultra-spacerock
guitarscapes described above - but the declaiming voice is good, as are
the warped guitar sounds used to realise the unusual song structures.
There's an undeniable Sonic Youth influence - in fact the Youth arranged
for this band to support them in summer 1998 at an Italian music festival
in Torino, and later in 2000 on the NYC Ghosts and Flowers tour. Landscapes
of an electric city - a musical statement about their home town of Torino
- was originally released by the Opalios as a limited press CDR in 1999
and sent out as a mailart statement, as is much music these days. Now
reissued as a hefty package of delight by the Ecstatic Peace mafia who
vouchsafe unto us these words of wisdom about My Cat Is An Alien - 'Where
they can go next may be almost anywhere we'd suspect, but Jupiter is a
good guess'. Right on!