Out of the silence of this album’s first track comes an eerie acoustic loop that folds back in on itself in waves of reverse delay. It’s present throughout the 14-minute piece – becoming a touch more chilling with each repetition – as a growing sense of cabin fever sinks in and gradually begins to unsettle the psyche. The Opalio brothers seem to be feeding off of the isolation that must lurk within the home of their “Alien Zone” studio up in the Western Alps; not only as a distinct sense of unease that comes from such a detachment, but also as a gateway into new creative places, as though the disconnection from external influence leaves them to spiral out of orbit, ungrounded by the ideas and sonic proportions set by their musical “peers”.
Monotony is a key element. It sends samples back round in eternal loops; it coaxes rhythm into life in steady, hypnotic plods; it turns held tones into drones that transform from a constant sound into an inescapable, immersive presence. But there’s also a sense of liberation and thoughtlessness behind much of what’s happening here. The music is that of both deep inward thought and primal release. It reminds me of when I attended a gig of theirs at Café Oto last November: the duo catch a very good balance between mind and soul; between careful instrument choice and the loose, playful manner of their execution. The textures on this album are handpicked, but then often left to run free in elaborate patterns of pitch and duration, sometimes clipping with excess volume. These pieces feel manually composed to the extent that MCIAA warily select the best sounds before setting them free to behave just as they please.
Of course, such an approach leads to both stretches of brilliance and some results that verge on the suspect (for this listener, anyway). In particular, the synthesizer underbelly of the second track fails to penetrate to the same extent as the other three pieces, lacking both the sense of space (coming off as notably more flat and squashed up) and purposeful direction. But thankfully, Living on the Invisible Line devotes a far greater portion of its playing time those points at which location, instrument choice and the duo’s collaborative communication comes to a most mesmerising head. Just take the desolate acoustic plucks and wailing vocal overlays that rise out of the early delay pedal commotion of the final piece, exhibiting both the mindful and mindless sides of MCIAA in its wonderfully stark contrast.