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My Cat is an Alien, "Spiritual Noise, Vol. 2"

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cover imageEarlier this year, Maurizio and Roberto Opalio debuted an ambitious new phase of their long-running My Cat is an Alien project with Spiritual Noise. Vol. I.  Appropriately, this sequel is a continuation of that vein, but there is no such thing as a predictable linear progression in the Opalios' universe: each fresh album is like a veil being pulled back to reveal an otherworldly and deeply hallucinatory vista quite unlike anything anyone else has ever recorded.  In fact, this project calls to mind a lonely satellite that just keeps drifting deeper and deeper beyond our solar system, sporadically sending back increasingly haunted and alien images that have no earthly analog.  Naturally, music this unapologetically outré is an acquired taste that can challenge even the most adventurous ears, as there are no recognizable reference points or even nods to Earth-bound modality, but the closing "Silver Glimpses of Infinity" is the closest that the duo have come to comparative accessibility in years…probably.  It is equally likely that listening to so many MCIAA albums has irrevocably rewired my brain at this point and I am now fully desensitized to the more queasy and reality-dissolving elements of their aesthetic.  Either way, it is still quite an amazing piece.

Antigravitational

As is established tradition, this latest installment of Spiritual Noise documents a series of "instantaneous compositions" performed at the Opalios' studio in the Alps.  If My Cat is an Alien were a more conventional project, I would translate that as "improvisations," but "channelings" feels far more apt in this case.  I do not get the sense that the two brothers are consciously playing off of each other's contributions (no one would mistake this for jazz), yet there is an uncanny sense that Maurizio and Roberto achieved some kind of shared trance state and that their actions were unconsciously in harmony because they tapped into the same cosmic vibrations or ur-mind.  I suppose that is quite an accurate summation of the duo's appeal in general, as each of their albums is essentially a dispatch from an altered state that only the Opalios have managed to achieve and the sheer otherness of it can be absolutely mesmerizing.  The shape, scope, and emotional contours of that hallucinatory landscape can vary quite a bit from album to album, however, even though the Opalios' palette consists largely of just Roberto’s bleary and disorienting cooing, some space toys, and a small arsenal of homemade or repurposed gear.  With this album, the driving force is an uncharacteristically rhythmic one, as Roberto plays a "modified analog drum machine."  In fact, the art edition of the album includes a bonus track that is essentially a clicking, popping, and phase-shifting rhythm experiment that feels like a weirdly hypnotic and infinite vinyl run-off groove.

The three pieces from the regular album have a similarly clattering and rickety backdrop, but they are vibrantly fleshed out with Roberto's unsettling vocal haze, buzzing electronics, and a disorienting host of lysergic effects.  Maurizio is credited with playing a "self-made double-bodied string instrument" as well, though I am hard-pressed to tell which sounds are coming from that and which ones originate from the duo's electronics.  Of course, trying to figure out where each individual sound comes from is generally a fool's game with My Cat is an Alien, as everything swirls together into a smeared, twinkling, and uneasily dissonant miasma by design.  Each of these three pieces actually feels like a variation of the same mind-warping, cosmic miasma, in fact, but each one is an ingenious deconstruction akin to heavy outsider dub. 

The central motif in each case can be best summarized as a buzzing bass throb slowly moving through a supernatural fog of eerie vocals and queasy sustained tones that evoke glimmering, malevolent stars.  The opening "Rage and Beatitude of Pain" is the most visceral of the three incarnations, as its phantasmagoric reverie is enhanced with distorted bass tones, roiling swells of tape hiss, and reverberant metallic clangs.  The lengthier "As Meteors Before Disintegration" then strips away all of the bottom end and sharp edges to leave only a sustained floating nightmare of dissonant harmonies.  The final piece, "Silver Glimpse of Infinity," lies somewhere between those two divergent poles, slowly converging into a slow-motion rhythm of corroded, stuttering bass thrum and a looping melodic fragment of electronic buzzes.  It is quite a wonderfully hypnotic and slow-burning piece and the Opalios make the most out of its potential by enhancing it with a host of gibbering and fluttering sounds that resemble field recordings from an extra-dimensional jungle.

While the sheer otherness and boundless imagination of MCIAA's vision is the primary draw, there is a second (and arguably more substantial) appeal in the immersive, reality-distorting vividness of the spell that the Opalios cast with that vision.   As such, there is an endless push and pull between focusing/distilling their deep space lysergia for maximum impact versus expanding it into an epic mind-melting plunge into sustained sensory saturation.  Both sides can be wonderful, but I am especially fond of the latter, as experiencing an album like Psycho-System feels akin to stumbling out of a sweat lodge after experiencing a divine revelation.  As a result, the Opalios' recent run of shorter albums tend to leave me wanting more, but they offer a different kind of pleasure that does not consume a significant chunk of my day.  Which, of course, means that albums like Spiritual Noise, Vol. II are considerably better-suited for repeat listening than their more sprawling predecessors (and presumably much less intimidating for the unindoctrinated as well).  In that regard, this installment of Spiritual Noise makes a fine addition to the Opalios' current hot streak and adds one more stone-cold classic to their oeuvre in the form of "Silver Glimpse of infinity."

Samples can be found here.

Last Updated on Monday, 21 October 2019 06:57  


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