Thurston Moore / My Cat Is An Alien - "From the Earth to the Spheres Vol. 1", Opax

Thuja / My Cat Is An Alien - "From the Earth to the Spheres Vol. 2", Opax

Jackie-O Motherfucker / My Cat Is An Alien - "From the Earth to the Spheres Vol. 3", Opax

Jim O'rourke / My Cat Is An Alien - "From the Earth to the Spheres Vol. 4", Opax

Christina Carter / My Cat Is An Alien - "From the Earth to the Spheres Vol. 5", Opax

My Cat Is An Alien - "On Air at Sound Projecting", Opax

My Cat Is An Alien - "Through The Reflex of the Rain", Free Porcupine Society

Roberto Opalio - "Chants from Isolated Ghosts", Opax

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

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>> Thurston Moore / My Cat Is An Alien - From the Earth to the Spheres Vol. 1; Thuja / My Cat Is An Alien - From the Earth to the Spheres Vol. 2; Jackie-O Motherfucker / My Cat Is An Alien - From the Earth to the Spheres Vol. 3; Jim O'rourke / My Cat Is An Alien - From the Earth to the Spheres Vol. 4; Christina Carter / My Cat Is An Alien - From the Earth to the Spheres Vol. 5; My Cat Is An Alien - On Air at Sound Projecting; My Cat Is An Alien - Through The Reflex of the Rain; Roberto Opalio - Chants from Isolated Ghosts
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