The Cosmological Eye Trilogy

[Last Visible Dog,]

From The Earth to the Spheres, Vol. 6

[Opax Records,]

Cosmic Debris, Vol. 1

[Opax Records,]

Greetings from the Great Void

[Eclipse Records,]

Il Suono Venuto Dallo Spazio


Painting Petals on Planet Ghost

[Time-Lag Records,]


[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

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