Black Magic Disco Black Magic Disco

[Important; 2007]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: hypnotic hippie drone
Others: My Cat Is an Alien, Vibracathedral Orchestra, Jackie-O Motherfucker

Listening to My Cat Is an Alien is like staring at a painting. Sometimes it takes a lot of contemplation to fully comprehend and respect the work. Like a Dali painting, the brothers Opalio occasionally throw a blend of exotic, surreal sounds into the listener’s ear, creating hallucinogenic soundscapes. Other times, the Italian band constructs meditative drones that, much like a Jasper Johns painting, appear one-dimensional and effortless on the surface but contain a great deal underneath. Of course, uninspired garbage sometimes lies beneath the surface also. Like Andy Warhol, My Cat Is an Alien straddle the line between commodity and art, producing multitudes of albums in short editions, some carrying $100 price tags on their initial pressing.

Likewise, Jackie-O Motherfucker channel the same stratosphere within their vast discography, and it came as no surprise when JOMF appeared on the third installment of MCIAA’s From the Earth to the Spheres series. JOMF frontman Tom Greenwood once again joins forces with the brothers Opalio for a European tour as Black Magic Disco, a project also featuring vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Ramona Ponzini. Their self-titled disc documents the tour for those of us who couldn't make the journey. At a daunting 79 minutes, it showcases all the aforementioned modes of the band’s music while remaining surprisingly fresh.

The four long passages on the disc sound exactly like a MCIAA/JOMF hybrid, exhibiting a tendency for high-art drones and soundscapes as well as splatter-art improvisation. Each jam begins with spacey landscapes and wanders through logical but transformational territory until the listener can't recall the roots of the song. Often, the band explores multiple genres within a single piece. Although the disc slips in and out of hypnotic passages, testing the listener’s patience with singular tones and barely-moving industrial drones, their deep, improvisational treks conjure many interesting moments, and the band transcends the “side-project” label by summoning a style all its own.

The second track perfectly exemplifies Black Magic Disco’s power by blending each improviser’s respective musical background and mapping the area between. Their sound eclipses into an orgasmic peak when Ponzini gently whispers while the Opalio brothers transmit sci-fi drones and Greenwood molests his guitar. Black Magic Disco delve too far away from the satellite at times, but Ponzini lures them back to the space station with her shouted enchantress vocals, refocusing the band. After these sometimes lengthy lapses in vision, the band reconvenes with glorious results. A single note on a guitar and turntable reverb lull the audience for awhile on track one, but soon chiming guitars (reminiscent of early Sonic Youth), industrial percussion, and classical and tribal samples meld together, rebirthing the wonderful head-trip.

Overall, Black Magic Disco present an album of opposites. The band defies expectations by refusing to become another disposable New Weird American relic, yet many people will ignore this project, as My Cat Is an Alien have already graced stereos with multiple releases this year. Their music is self-important and innovative, but it morphs into background music during some passages. If you’re in need of household decoration, throw Black Magic Disco on at your next cocktail party and your guests will praise your tasty new wallpaper.

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