The latest ambitious durational epic from the Opalio brothers is thankfully not nearly as daunting as its 15-disc physical form suggests, as RINASCIMENTO ("Renaissance") is composed of 15 movements of varying lengths ranging from 5 to 40 minutes. The reasoning behind the unusual format is arguably twofold, as the Opalios' belief that "each sound claims its own space" is extended to dedicate a full disc to each movement and listeners are invited to "subvert the order" to make use of "random/chance operation à la Cage." There is an additional piece to the puzzle as well, however, as the handcrafted box and CD-R format were deliberately chosen as a return to MCIAA's "radical DIY" origins and as a pointed commentary on underground music's current maddening dependence on vinyl pressing plants and predatory corporations. Unsurprisingly, the primary appeal of RINASCIMENTO is the same as that of every other multi-hour MCIAA tour de force: it is a sustained and mind-altering plunge into otherworldly psychedelia that abandons nearly all earthbound notions of harmony, melody, structure, and instrumentation (and that is not an exaggeration). While the brothers' sonic palette will be a familiar one for longtime MCIAA fans (being a two-person real-time "spontaneous composition" project has some limitations), RINASCIMENTO is nevertheless one hell of a statement, as it collects the duo's most revelatory flashes of inspiration from an entire year of recordings (several of which capture the duo in peak longform form).
The first movement of this 5 ½ hour epic is a deceptively brief and harsh one, as a miasma of tape hiss, whines, and jangling metal sounds call to mind someone slowly dragging a mass of metal cans ("just married!") around a burst pipe in a queasy swirl of alien harmonies and gibbering electronics. In theory, the fifteenth and final movement (smoldering feedback slowly streaking over thumping ritualistic percussion amidst a fog of cooing voices) is not radically different from that opening piece, but it certainly FEELS very different when it eventually comes because it is impossible to listen to 5+ hours of MCIAA without feeling like one's mind has been fundamentally transformed in some way by the sustained plunge into the Opalio's smeared, unnerving, and otherworldly vision. That said, some of the longer movements can achieve a similar effect in drastically reduced time on their own.
Given the fact that the Opalios are playing everything in real time spontaneously, the strongest movements feel akin to witnessing a solar eclipse: it takes a while for all of the moving parts to lock into the right places, but the spectacle can be quite transcendent once the threshold is finally reached. To my ears, RINASCIMENTO starts to truly catch fire around the fourth movement ("Revenge Of Native Aliens") and reaches its zenith somewhere between the eighth and tenth movements, but there are plenty of wild deep space mindfucks on either side of that stretch. For example, the second movement fleetingly calls to mind a flock of honking psychedelic birds disrupting a holodeck beach trip, while the fourth movement evokes the feeling of slowly sinking in a space bog while being serenaded by a lysergic chorus of extradimensional frogs and crickets.
That fourth movement kicks off a sustained and increasingly inspired run of highlights, but the top-tier consciousness-expanding mindbombs are movements six, eight, nine, and ten. In "Fury Of The Alien Gods," for example, it sounds like a free jazz drummer is consumed by a time-bending supernatural haze while jamming with an interplanetary distress signal.
Elsewhere, "Aliencentricism" passes through stages evoking everything from "flock of birds enveloping an extraterrestrial kinetic metal sculpture" to "a field of rusted metal wires vibrates in the wind while an insistent distress signal endlessly reverberates around the ruins of an abandoned space colony." "Matter Becomes Spirit," on the other hand, approximates some kind of slow-motion industrial dub, as a series of erratically timed metal clanks shudders and echoes beneath a smoldering alien melody of smeared beeps that sounds like the death song of a burning space station. "Alienophony" also evokes a looping distress signal in an abandoned place, but as a connoisseur of the genre, I can confidently report that it has an entirely different character this time around ("squirming and squelching short wave radio transmissions in blizzard-ravaged arctic outpost").
The descent back to earth from those peaks is a gradual one, however, as the journey has a few more memorable stops before the final station (for example, "The New Verb" sounds like a doomed astronaut trying to navigate through a supernatural windstorm with unreliably bending and warping sonar pings). While the wealth of highlights here is admittedly quite a treat, it is worth noting that MCIAA is one of the rare projects in which the varying appeal of individual compositions is distantly secondary to the overall vision, as one does not need to get very deep into RINASCIMENTO (or just about any other MCIAA albums) to reach one of two conclusions. One of those conclusions is probably "I need to turn this off because this nerve-jangling, unearthly cacophony is burrowing into my mind and rapidly driving me insane," but the other one is "this unearthly cacophony is burrowing into my mind like absolutely nothing else that I have ever heard and I love it." For those that fall into the latter camp, a fresh durational monster from the Opalios is a legitimate event and the fact that there are several highlight reel-level pieces here is just further delicious icing on an already wonderful and unique cake. The Opalios are not wrong in their claim that RINASCIMENTO is future music happening in the present, as their complete rejection of contemporary music's established framework unquestionably represents at least ONE possible future. Whether or not it represents THE future remains to be seen, yet landmark MCIAA releases like this one are objectively as forward-thinking as many previous innovations that have provocatively challenged the way that people understand, experience, and appreciate organized sound (such as Just Intonation, chromaticism, John Cage's use of the I Ching, or the birth of noise).