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Murcof - Utopia

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Artist: Murcof

Album: Utopia

Label: Leaf

Review date: Oct. 11, 2004

Fernando Corona rose slowly as one of today's most adept composers of minimalist electronica. He released his debut album, Martes, under the name Murcof in Mexico in 2001 before it saw American distribution through the Leaf Label in 2002. Vastly departing from his work with Mexico’s Nortec Collective as Terrestre, Corona managed to create a sound that not so much exploits as embraces the classical/romanticism of Rachel’s and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. But where these bands use the classics to evoke an epic or cinematic grandiosity, Corona avoids those stereotypes in his pieces.

This new collection of singles and remixes titled Utopia continues his project in perfect fashion. “Urano,” previously released as the B-side to last year’s “Ulysses” single, contains Corona’s boldest orchestral production, but never focuses its attack on any single theme or forward movement. Deep bass and cello lines bow back and forth in Doppler effects, the rhythmic echo of the violin interlocking with the atmospheric textures. Sequences like this support the notion that Corona has learned a lot from the likes of Kit Clayton and Arthur Russell.

Two new tracks exclusive to this collection enhance the early brilliance of Martes and the ensuing singles. The subtle touch of the developing electronic beat in “Una” punctuates a repeated string ensemble phrase, to where it finally takes over and the strings are dropped in and out of the distorted crackle like pieces of the digital framework. “Ultimatum,” the album’s final cut, ends in a similar manner, with evolving strings taking the lead.

The remixes on the album are sympathetic to Corona’s style, none of them detouring remarkably from the originals, and never in destructive ways. Of note is Colleen's contribution, her first remix , a lovely, tricked-down version of “Muim” from Martes. There are two remixes of “Ulysses," the first a short piece focused on ambiance by Supersilent producer Deathprod, and the second a juiced techno mix by fellow Mexican Fax. The trifecta of "Ulysses" encapsulates the complexity and depth of Corona’s music and the potential for others to find their own sounds hidden in its many layers.

By Joel Calahan

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