Painting Petals on Planet Ghost
Painting Petals on Planet Ghost
rolificacy’s double-edged. Should an artist release (x > 1) albums per year, naysayers will arise lid-capped from their trashcans and spew the familiar catcalls: “Indulgent! Unfocused! Unfinished!” Unfortunately, the grouches are too often right; otherwise there wouldn’t be so damn many of them. On the other hand, prolific musicians are usually dedicated musicians, capable of more quality albums than the industry standard. No need to punish anyone for exceeding expectations, right?
Let’s zoom in for a case study: Roberto and Maurizio Opalio, known ’round these parts as My Cat is an Alien, not only exceeded their quota in 2005, they play improv psychedelic, a dreaded tag bringing to mind the overflowing landfills of Acid Mothers Temple discs littering Japan (as if the country weren’t cramped enough!) The symptoms of Templetitis recur in the duo—the cosmic vocabulary, a seat at the table with Ed Hardy of Eclipse Records, similar ambient signifiers. The stage is set for a slip in quality. But like AMT in their prime, My Cat is an Alien hasn’t fallen victim to their own energy and enthusiasm.
A key to staying fresh is collaborators, which brings us to Painting Petals on Planet Ghost, a project pairing the Opalios with songstress Ramona Ponzini. This album is a soothing nightcap for a hectic year—short, sweet, easily digested, but still full-bodied. Five songs, not reaching half an hour, of Japanese poetry backed by the Opalios’ sparse instrumental investigations. For the notoriously long-winded brothers—who would just as soon unleash a seventy-minute track as brush their teeth in the morning—the seething restraint on Painting Petals on Planet Ghost is positively revelatory.
Melancholy dominates the album. Ponzini’s melancholy is bested only by the Opalios’ melancholy, each track a battle to out-lonely the other. One could wish for more variety, but given the brevity of the album and the potentially endless permutations of sadness, Painting Petals gets by.
Ponzini’s approach to Japanese serves the album well. The majority of her audience speaks nary a word of it, so she rightly lingers on the sound of the language. As far as I know, she might be happy as a clam, reciting words of sunshine and bounty, but to get the “K” just right (with the crisp burst at the end), she has to elongate the sound. Japanese suits Anglophone listeners well. All its sounds occur in English (except the unrounded “U,” but that’s a quibble), and it has a syllabic rigidity that provides natural rhythm. Ponzini clearly agrees. In fact, she’s sometimes too focused on the sound, forgetting the emotional significance of the poetry. This disrupts “Haruame No Juru Wa Namida Ka,” in which she deadpans the same line for some time, expecting the words alone to carry her meaning. Luckily the gaffe doesn’t spoil the track, as it was already spoiled by the piercing frequency inexplicably favored by the Opalios.
Otherwise, the album kills, though that’s too strong a word for something this fragile. Barring the overanalytical Orientalist concerns that besiege me upon hearing the gongs of “Haru Wa Akebono”—these three are Italian, after all—these songs are nothing but beautiful; the musical equivalent of brushstroke painting. So despite my earlier hand-wringing, Painting Petals has left me wanting more. Knowing MCIAA, the wait won’t be long.