Somnambule - Writing About Music

Murcof ~ Remembranza

Electronic music is now a truly global lingua franca. Its saturated reach, however, has the all too frequent tendency to make its sources anonymous, as evidenced by Mille Plateaux’s Clicks & Cuts compilations. In opposition stand the likes of Iceland’s Mum and Mexico’s Murcof who have developed unique voices that are difficult to separate from the countries that nurtured them. Murcof’s music has a very strong sense of place, of a landscape where mountains meet plains and sun-bleached towns hover in the haze of afternoon heat. Its depth, clarity and sense of contemplativeness evokes the calm stillness of Vermeer’s interiors. If the Dutch artist had painted the Mexican countryside with sound, perhaps the result would have been similar to this music.

Remembranza travels along the path established by its predecessors, Martes and last year’s Utopia (a compilation of remixes and new tracks). The music, marked by a brooding stateliness, convincingly marries electronic elements and carefully applied orchestral elements. There’s a sense of delicacy and detail in Murcof’s approach that saves it from descending into rarefied archness. No stealing up out of silence this time. Recuerdos establishes its dense atmosphere without preamble. The trademark brush of burnished strings is intermittently audible, but there’s a lot of other activity, a variety of presences that gradually layer themselves into a resonant well of dark hues... the veiled tones of piano and violin appearing like points of light which only serve to deepen the shadows that surround them.

Titles like Remembranza and Recuerdos point to a focus upon the past. Judging by the tone of the music, the memories are not happy ones. There’s a sombre mournfulness that suggests deep hurt and painful, reluctant acceptance. The syncopated clatters that are interspersed throughout the first track suggest the marshal assembling of rifles (this particular association is triggered by its similarity to a rhythm figure used by Photek on The Hidden Camera). It’s interesting to see Murcof declare, in a milkfactory interview undertaken at the time of Martes’ release, that “there is no political motivation behind my music, it’s just music and what I can do with it”. I wonder whether the emotional foundations of this music are deeper now, they certainly sound as if they are. Even if that’s not the case, Remembranza serves as a resonant screen upon which it’s possible to project one’s own feelings and memories.
Colin Buttimer
August 2005
Published by milkfactory