My Cat Is An Alien
…Ascends the Sky
Rebis / Whitened Sepulchre
hose who are lucky, quick, and rich enough to catch limited edition CD-Rs the first time around probably won’t be excited about the Whitened Sepulchre label. And why should they? All their hard work at staying ahead of the curve is being ruined by a group dedicated to “reissuing and preserving key recordings of the New Electronic Sublime.” As for the rest of us? Well, we finally get to hear the experiments, the missing links, the before-they-were-(relatively)-famous music of the artists that, for whatever reason, decided to print up these ultra-rare editions. Our laziness has paid off.
Sepulchre’s first release is from Italy’s finest investigative free/drone duo, My Cat Is an Alien. The two may be best known for their use of kid’s toys, drones, and spinning oscillators, but …Ascends the Sky was recorded in 2001, a time when they sat at the fringes of guitar-based music. While much of their more recent material has leaned in the direction of wasteland drone electronics, …Ascends the Sky bridges that territory with the sound of instrumental Slint and Charalambides’ stripped psychedelia.
In a perverse chronological reversal they’ve added a new track, “Meditation on …Ascends the Sky,” at the start of the reissue. Recorded in 2005, it’s a distillation of the album’s feel without moving in exactly the same waters—it appropriates the tools of post-rock without a thought for the reclamation of rock. Beginning as nothing more than a slowly warming piece of circular guitar, it grows as Ramona Ponzini backs it with faint Japanese wind chimes. These reverberant notes wash over the repeated motifs as a thunderhead assembles overhead. A heavy cymbal shiver dissipates this threat of engulfment.
Tracks two and three are actually the same piece, split between the more obviously human half and its more electronic twin. “…Ascends the Sky Two” starts with a melancholy plucking and is soon joined by a single electric drone that rises up, delicately fizzing to the surface. This is the sound of Mogwai drinking red wine on warm Italian summer nights—a song that is all the better for never reaching a battlefield scrum of pig-out noise.
The final track picks up where “…Two” finishes, in subtle wobbles of electric drone and repeating lulling vocals. A tightly plucked guitar passage grows into a digital hailstone, dents appearing in a torrent of Geiger dripped sound. Utilizing guitars again, though this time less obviously, they stretch pure tones over the racks of crackle. These unlikely elements come together to shift the song into new waters, polishing each other like mating snails and constantly curling in a sticky, tenuous embrace.
Having access to this expanded reissue makes you wonder how many other releases are sitting out there, wrapped in plastic and unlistened to by hoarders. Hopefully it will be the start of a very long list of releases. This is the perfect debut album for the label and a strong reminder of My Cat Is An Alien’s allure.
Reviewed by: Scott McKeating
Reviewed on: 2006-08-23