Mexican composer and electronic musician Fernando Corona has now produced a substantial and varied body of work, reaching some sort of ecstatic peak with the exquisite Cosmos. La Sagre Illuminada, a soundtrack to the film of the same name directed by Ivan Avila Duenas (not a familiar name to UK audiences), is one of his more minimal and introspective works. Emerging after Cosmos, it feels like something of a calculated retreat, but it was actually recorded in 2007 and released in Corona’s native Mexico in 2008. With this knowledge, it is less surprising that this most closely resembles the earlier Murcof works Martes and Remembranza. This new version of the soundtrack, being released in the UK on vinyl with an accompanying CD by Infine, has apparently been re-edited from the original recordings, although it is unclear just how much the music has evolved since its first release.
Corona’s music here is slow and brooding, constructed within what would appear to be rather strict self-imposed restrictions. The individual pieces are extremely short (mostly between one and two minutes in duration), although they are often grouped in larger multi-part groups according to common sound worlds or approaches. In spite of Corona’s use of electronics and processing, the resulting pieces sound surprisingly natural and atmospheric. Eugenia IV begins with what sounds like the chirping of crickets.
Particularly welcome is the use of sampled strings and piano. Whilst these are often characteristically economical, Corona deploys them to brilliant effect. On Soriano II, just one note on the piano adds volumes to the overall atmosphere. The strings on Isaias II may be distant, but they make for an eerie and foreboding effect. On Isaias IV, the delicate string sounds are mournful and affecting.
Whilst La Sagre Illuminada could easily have felt fragmented and difficult, it actually comes together as an effective whole. Corona is definitely in contemplative mood, perhaps appropriately so given that this music has a clear function, but his minimalism also leaves room for feeling and empathy in its open spaces. His technique of layering sounds means that variations in the density of sound are as effective as his choice of acoustic instrument to manipulate.
Whilst it’s unclear as to quite why this music has taken so long to migrate from Mexico to the UK, its belated release is certainly welcome. At the very least, La Sagre Illuminada is a satisfying stop-gap between Murcof albums, although it is worth emphasising that it is very much an intriguing statement in its own right, demonstrating much of Fernando Corona’s subtle craft and skill.