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Murcof - The Versailles Sessions

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Artist: Murcof

Album: The Versailles Sessions

Label: Leaf

Review date: Jan. 14, 2009

Tijuana-based electronic composer Fernando Corona, a.k.a Murcof, is glitch music’s chief melodist. His thing for strings gives his recordings a stately feel, but it’s the deliberateness with which he reorders samples and his acute sense of dimensionality that separates him from the elastic-band beat-twisters who have come to define the post-Aphex era.

Murcof’s latest Leaf release, The Versailles Sessions, was composed for the Les Grandes Eaux Nocturnes festival in the record’s namesake city. Inspired by 17th-century French classical music, Versailles avoids the drone ‘n’ pulse of earlier Murcof efforts like Remembranza, opting instead to highlight solo instruments like cello and mezzo-soprano vocals that are digitally massaged and augmented by the whirring, clicking and scraping of what sounds like a Faustian workshop.

I’ve always loved Murcof, particularly for his attention to detail. Yet on past releases, it was enough to let the music drift by like rural scenery glimpsed through a rain-soaked train window. Versailles affords no such opportunity for daydreaming – even at its most minimal, the album demands your full attention. The rewards are ample.

Versailles reaches backward to a time when music was not a distraction or escape from a thousand other distractions and escapes, but rather a privilege requiring deep contemplation and worthy of ceremonial veneration. Within the precise arrangement of sound, beauty was reflected – that beauty could be tranquil or terrifying, but it was beauty nonetheless.

“Death Of A Forest” is the most affecting piece on Versailles, though, given the album’s comprehensive virtues, praising any one composition over another seems pointless. Yet, the stark and funereal feel of the cello and vocal are not only worthy of the song title, but also provide the record’s lodestone.

The suite comes to a close with “Lully’s Turquerie As Interpreteted By An Electronic Script,” a vivacious melody set to trembling electronics, digital chirps and slightly menacing loops. These accoutrements invest the archaic with a jarring modernism, the effect of which is akin to seeing a bionic appendage on a nobleman.

Such attempts at harmonizing the sonic bearing of disparate epochs could easily go awry. Lesser artists might fall prey to pastiche, something Murcof artfully avoids. Instead he pulls off a remarkable feat – he makes the forgotten sound formidable, and the contemporaneous sound credible.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

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