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Murcof Versailles Sessions Review

Album. Released 2008.  

BBC Review

Impressive in its reach and seriousness.

Colin Buttimer 2008

Murcof's debut, Martes, was an elegant work that married samples of Morton Feldman and Arvo Pärt to electronic beats. In the six or so years since, Mexican Fernando Corona has released a set of remixes, Utopia, and two more albums, Remembranza and Cosmos. With each work his palette has become more sonorous, his soundscapes painted in lustrous shades of southern night and dark memories. Where Martes could be accused of being too deliberately appealing, the albums that succeeded it have sought and achieved greater depth.

The Versailles Sessions was written to accompany the annual festival of sound, light and water at the Chateau de Versailles. Specially recorded 17th century baroque instruments including harpsichord, viola da gamba and flute are the raw materials for Murcof's six compositions. Welcome to Versailles begins with crashes and the scraping of strings. After a succession of flute notes that stretch out over a cavernous space measured out by clanking sounds, drones ratchet up the tension.

Murcof's compositions are deliberately paced and stately in their unfolding. In their drawn-out notes, period instrumentation and echoing ambiences there's an eery hauntedness that resonates impressively. The jaunty lute of the finale Lully's Turquerie As Interpreted By An Advanced Script plays out against a murmuring backdrop and shows that hauntology isn't the sole preserve of the Ghost Box label.

Throughout, there's a sense of phantoms, broken symmetry, lawns gone to seed, the gradual corruption wrought by time. On Spring In The Artifical Gardens, notes are sounded and allowed to reverberate for extended periods in a way that brings to mind Alain Resnais' film, Last Year In Marienbad. Other pieces suggest the unsettling strangeness of the closing scene in 2001 A Space Odyssey. Given the tremendous resonance of the place, The Versailles Sessions might have sunk under the weight of its pretension, thankfully Murcof avoids this while presenting a suite of varied parts that is impressive in its reach and seriousness.

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