My Cat Is An Alien / Christian Marclay & Okkyung Lee "From The Earth To The Spheres, Vol. 6"
Previously available on limited edition LP on their own Opax imprint (each copy featuring an original painting on wood support by Roberto Opalio), this is the CD version of the final volume of the first series of split collaborations initiated by the Italian duo of My Cat Is An Alien. And it almost feels like a ?final? statement of sorts...
Still, this split CD will remain as one of the most openly ?experimental? in the series. On first listen, the homogeneity between the two pieces even seems stronger than on the previous volumes despite the fact that these two musical approaches are very different.
The first piece is entitled ?Rubbings? and it is live recording by Christian Marclay (on turntables and electronics) and cellist Okkyung Lee from December 2003. It is full of extensive improvisations and interactions between the two musicians.
The first part of the piece sees Marclay using a wide array of vinyl sources to create a fascinating, yet highly abstract soundcape. There are a few echoes of music from the past here and there ? between jazz and avant-garde ? but they are constantly being stretched to the point of becoming unrecognizable. What matters here is the constant flow of sound as Marclay uses his vinyl records like a painter would of his own palette.
As the music goes on, Lee?s playing becomes more and more prominent. As a matter of fact, the exchange between the two is so intense that you can?t really distinguish between what comes from Marclay?s sonic manipulations and Lee?s cello. Thus, her playing can be as much straighforward as it can blend several techniques at the same time ? from the continuous ?modal? playing (played in the lower register with a great amount of energy) to the ?ecstatic? use of harmonics in the last section of the piece, for instance.
It all goes back to basics, really ? to the way a mere rubbing can create a pattern that sets sounds in motion, sending out vibrations into the air and into the body. There are always new ?impossible? sound-worlds to be extracted from the earth, the music seems to say...
It is no secret that My Cat Is An Alien have perfected a very intuitive and organic approach to their music over the past few years ? constantly adding & substracting new elements to it based on their own rhythms. It is as if they always gave their entire trust to the music once it has begun to take shape. Consequently, they have a very keen sense of direction as to where their music is heading and this recording from July 2002 won?t contradict this fact.
Entitled ?Beyond The Limits Of The Stars/ Beyond The Limits Of The Grooves?, this piece begins with a lo-fi kind of drone that seems to come from an old amp. A lonely electric guitar is being heard ? two notes slowly ascending/ descending the scale. The sound is raw, time is standing still...
Within the very first minutes, a singular climate has already been established, almost ?dark? in nature. Yet, each time the music has reached a certain plateau, it starts to CHANGE, gradually modifying its sets of colors. Another electric guitar quickly enters the picture, its crystal notes slowly falling one by one. Then, a circling feedback begins to suffuse the entire sonic space before disappearing for a little while.
A full-on exchange between the musicians follows ? the second guitar entering a fascinating dialogue with the first one. On one hand, little metallic scrapings are being meticulously extracted with a certain degree of tension, while on the other hand, the second guitar chooses to harness the power of electricity to create fascinating abstract forms that keep on changing shapes.
In this respect, the middle section is particularly impressive as the music really seems to take a life of its own, becoming a third entity entirely. Then, it all slows down a little and the 2-note pattern gradually re-appears... although its texture has now become slightly heavier. There are other sound sources as well : fragments of classical music are heard as they?re being filtered through with dizzying effects. The results are simply stunning...
Circling feedbacks are now saturating the entire sonic space. Soon, a high-pitched pattern comes out of it, entering a loop that is actually re-creating the locked groove that could be found on the original LP version.
As it goes on, the music seems to change... again, even though we are listening to a loop. One notices new sounds/ new patterns, as if small sonic debris kept detaching themselves ? very slowly ? from this highly hypnotic whirl of sound, thus creating a powerful lifeform that simply refuses to die.
Here, the poetics of MCIAA truly shines through as we now realize that the cover artwork by Roberto Opalio has been in perfect symbiosis with the music all along. It is as if Roberto?s painting was suddenly given life and began to sing along.
In a way, the cardboard texture of the CD version manages to re-create the impression that was made by the original painting which had transparent glass fragments mixed with heavy layers of white acrylic paste. And it is to the credit of MCIAA and the Silent Place label to produce releases in which such a special care has been given to both form and content.
Nevertheless, one should point out that MCIAA?s contribution is quite unique in their discography. Still, it may act as a useful reminder that their music is constantly re-inventing itself, displaying a capacity for change that truly goes ?beyond? their actual recordings. And now for another appropriately-name split series entitled ?Cosmic Debris?... 8/10 -- Francois Hubert (14 August, 2007)