Album Reviews

Murcof – Cosmos

(Leaf) UK release date: 8 October 2007

Murcof - Cosmos Murcof is the recording alias of Mexican electronic artist Fernando Corona, a man who has built up a reputation as an innovative and progressive operator. His previous collections, including Martes and Remembranza, have been sparkling collisions of micro house textures and orchestral samples.

Now relocated to Barcelona, Corona has approached Cosmos from a different musical perspective. The samples have been replaced by fresh recordings of classical instruments. These have then been twisted and manipulated by a variety of electronic circuits to produce the soundscapes of Cosmos.

Cosmos, as the name suggests, was inspired by the endless night sky, the stars and planets of the solar system. He has embarked on a tour of European planetariums to showcase the material in the most appropriate setting.

Opening track Cuerpo Celeste (Celestial Body) commences with the distant rumbling of some found sound or field recording low in the mix, the source of which is impossible to discern. It could be the sea, wind, traffic noise. It could be the Big Bang happening millions of light years away.

This stasis is maintained for the opening minute or so before a lone sample is twisted and stretched across the lonely void. The motif is slowly repeated and developed. The track builds with low tone strings and brass notes hanging in the ether.

Pleasantly we coast along for five minutes in ambient clouds before the main melodic riff is introduced. The simple hook sounds a little to close to the alien theme in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Whether it’s an in-joke or a subconscious lift, it immediately deflates the track’s atmosphere. Then it lurches into dangerous prog rock territory; huge church organ chords are paired with flicking bass tones, micro house clicks and distant electronic fuzz. A tympani ricochets behind swelling chords, like Rick Wakeman remixed by Simian Mobile Disco. For some, this will sound like a horrid hotch-potch.

Corona has spoken of his inspirations being more in the fields of classical music than contemporary electronica and it shows. At times Cosmos has the feel of a ‘hooked on classics’ LP; orchestical moves needlessly updated in an attempt to make them sound current. There is little on show in the classical tracks to suggest that Corona has the skills or flair to write this type of music from scratch. Cosmos, Pt 2 is overblown; Oort overreaching and melodramatic.

When he resorts to bending samples across electronic vistas the tracks are much more successful, Cielo (Sky) being a case in point. Building up from a repeated clipped sine wave and flickering, stuttering drum pattern, it has a dislocated sense of funk that is missing from other tracks. With the string section sighs, chimes and echoing cuts and clicks it could be lost trip hop masterpiece – Portishead without the vocals, a dark, dank jewel. Cometa weaves similar sounds into sparsity, with echoes of the dubstep work of Burial.

Cosmos, Pt 1 bridges the two approaches most successfully. The layers of dense strings and glistening electronics progress slowly, via elongated brass to an intense climax before ebbing gentle away on a series of sine waves and pulses.

Fernando Corona’s ambition can’t be faulted – more artists should aim for the stars. He hasn’t quite developed the dexterity to match his grand designs yet, but there is enough on show here to suggest he soon will.

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More on Murcof
Murcof – The Alias Sessions
Murcof: “I feel attracted to music and sounds that evoke a sense of mystery or otherworldliness” – Q&A
Murcof – La Sangre Illuminada OST
Murcof – Cosmos
Murcof @ Peter Harrison Planetarium, London