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My Cat is an Alien, "Spiritual Noise, Vol. I"

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cover imageMy Cat is an Alien has always been very much an "outsider art" phenomenon, as the Opalio brothers have spent the last two decades tirelessly conjuring and reshaping a hermetic alternate reality replete with its own unique philosophy and cosmology.  In the process, they have released some truly original and beguiling auditory dispatches from their remote home in the Alps, but music is just one part of their larger vision and that vision has drawn increasing interest from the art world.  For this latest release, the brothers unveil a new collaborative imprint with gallerist and publisher Marco Contini that seeks to bring the various threads of the their artistry together into a focused and harmonious whole.  That endeavor is off to an excellent start, as Spiritual Noise is quite an impressive achievement as an art object.  It is also an excellent album, as each of the two lengthy pieces unveils a fresh new facet of the duo's deep space trance states.

Antigravitational

The opening "Spiritual Apocalypse" unquestionably earns at least half of its title, as it sounds like a vast, shambling intergalactic entity trudging slowly across space and time.  If I were ever to accidentally reawaken one of the Old Ones by foolishly reading a cursed incantation from The Necronomicon aloud, I would definitely expect to hear sounds in a very similar vein right before the sun was blotted out and the screaming began.  Uncharacteristically, "Spiritual Apocalypse" is a very percussion-driven piece, as its cumulative power centers around a slow yet relentless rhythm of seismic thuds and their shuddering aftermath.  There is a bit more to the piece than just the steady approach of a world-eating juggernaut, however, as bits of structure gradually start to emerge from the miasma of deep throbs and eerily harmonizing layers of warbling, spectral vocals.  Some additional entropy creeps into the scene as well, as the aftershocks seem to feed back into each other to create a host of new echoes and reverberations.  Those slow and seamless transformations beautifully set the stage for quite a brilliant final act.  In the piece's last five minutes, the slow-burning escalation of tension and dread transcendentally blossoms into a darkly lysergic feast of buzzing synth tones, feedback whines, and the gorgeously wounded, warped ripples of some homemade guitar-like instrument.  I am tempted to describe it as something like "pure phantasmagoric brilliance," but it is far too broken-sounding and unsettling to be considered "pure" anything.  I will grudgingly settle for "impure phantasmagoric brilliance" instead.

While Maurizio and Roberto tone down the cosmic horror quite a bit for the album’s second half, "Noise Deliverance" does share its predecessor's focus on rhythm to some degree.  In fact, it sounds weirdly dub-influenced, as the skipping pulse resembles the crackles of vinyl looped and fed through some effects pedals.  The other similarity between the two pieces is Roberto's omnipresent haze of ghostly cooing vocals.  The mood and trajectory of "Noise Deliverance" are quite a bit different than "Spiritual Apocalypse," however, as it feels like I am slowly becoming submerged into swirling, disorienting, and vividly phantasmal pool of bizarre and ravaged sounds.  The unlikely heart of the piece lies in an obsessively see-sawing motif of strangled feedback buzzes.  It is both naggingly insistent and uncomfortably dissonant, but I found myself mentally clinging to it like a life-preserver as the only reliably constant feature in a chaotic and unfamiliar landscape of chirping and whooshing space toys.  It is the sort of intense and difficult listening experience that few others artists could possibly get away with: the Opalios drop me the middle of a viscerally queasy and harrowing nightmare, but it is such a richly textured and vibrantly alive one that I cannot turn away from it.

After regularly immersing myself in the otherworldly vision of My Cat is an Alien for the last several years, I sometimes forget how incredibly far beyond recognizable, earthbound sounds the Opalios have traveled in their twenty years of recording.  Aside from Roberto's spectral signature vocals, Spiritual Noise feels like it could have been crafted almost entirely from haunting and mysterious transmissions picked up by the SETI institute.  That said, the Opalios' unique approach to melody and harmony is even more impressive than their unique choice of sounds.  They have somehow managed to erase the entire accumulated musical wisdom of human civilization from their minds in order to start fresh with a radically different sensibility all their own.  That is an incredible feat in general, but it is even more remarkable that something actually listenable emerged from such a categorical rejection of all things familiar to human ears.  There are no recognizable chords, there are no recognizable scales (Western or Eastern), there are no recognizable instruments, and there are absolutely no apparent influences from other artists.  Obviously, all of those things are true for quite a lot of MCIAA releases, but that has not stopped Roberto and Maurizio from tirelessly honing and perfecting their vision.  That is what makes Spiritual Noise a significant new entry in MCIAA's extensive discography.  My favorite albums have always been their massive, reality-dissolving epics like Psycho-System and Abstract Expressionism for the Ears, but this release continues the trend of The Dance of Oneirism towards a more distilled dose that retains roughly the same power.  Both of these pieces (especially "Noise Deliverance") are mind-bombs detonated with surgical precision, seemingly firing up long-dormant synapses in hopes of processing the unexpected onslaught of bizarre auditory stimuli and the similarly unfamiliar sensations they trigger.  Record store shelves are full of well-meaning bearded men wielding tablas and tamburas, hellbent on prying open my third eye or kicking down my doors of perception.  Some of them have made some absolutely wonderful albums, but none have gone as far as My Cat is an Alien.

Samples can be found here.

Last Updated on Monday, 27 May 2019 17:56  


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