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Murcof: La Sangre Iluminada

img  Tobias Fischer

Referring to a composition as „a soundtrack for your mind“ is generally considered a compliment. And yet, movie scores tend to be the exact opposite of what most people will associate with the term „cinematic“. Comprising of miniatures and rapidly changing moods, most of them feel piecemeal rather than epic, compressed rather than wide-screen. Outwardly, Fernando Corona's La Sangre Iluminada, recorded under his Murcof-moniker and as the sonic backbone to Iván Ávila Dueñas's homonymous 2007 movie dealing with metaphysics, coincidence and fate, with „objects, messages and memories“, is also marked by the splintered structure which has become typical of the genre: Made up of twenty pieces of barely a minute on average, its arrangements seem to follow the images, its architecture to flow from the plot – the typical characteristics, in short, of a commission rather than an equitable collaboration. Although Corona completely reworked the material for this international vinyl-debut-release, just from looking at the track listing the impression of fragmentation has actually increased: Most of the pieces were discretely cut down and the duo of „Sangre“ and „Mateo“ collated into a single composition, while the strict correspondence between moving pictures and sounds was upheld. And yet, against expectations, the result has turned out entirely autonomous and coherent, perhaps even the more obvious and natural successor to Cosmos than The Versailles Sessions' surreal exercise in fusing baroque aesthetics with electronica. Quite obviously, Corona discovered the chance for something utterly personal in the assignment – and he has seized it with palpable enthusiasm.

Of course, Dueñas's visuals already provided for an ideal framework. Revolving around six characters, whose lives suddenly become intricately entangled when they experience a change of bodies, the film had a clearly episodic nature to it, combined with a continuous shaping and reshaping of the same principles across its duration. In a way, with its division into separate „movements“, the creation of a cohesive „sound“ and the development of „themes“ and „motives“, it sported a "musical structure", which all but demanded to be compositionally explored and expanded upon. In effect, Corona conceptualised the soundtrack twofold: Firstly, as a cohesive entity held together by recurring and inter-related musical cells and timbres. Drawing from glitchy, ultra-clean and surgically precise micro-noises, sculpted either into gentle ambient grooves or animated abstract textures, as well as a multitude of sampled acoustic instruments (with a particular emphasis on piano and strings), the result is archetypal Murcof in its blend of neoclassical intimacy and clicks n cuts fragility. Secondly, the album qualifies as a pristinely realised character study of six individual personalities, each dressed in distinct acoustic garments: Dreamy and romantic Eugenio. Sensual, darkly erotic Paloma. Spiritual and slightly spaced-out Soriano. Mateo, caught in his world of longing and desires. Hugo, whose sensitive exterior hides a world of emotional upwelling. And, finally, withdrawn and silent Isaías.

On the one hand, the theme of the transmigration of souls connects different episodes and makes an at first unspectacular melodic invention intriguingly wander through these different „bodies“. On the level of separate tracks, meanwhile, the music takes on an a Webern-like brevity, asceticism and precision, with Corona expressing himself and the emotional worlds of his characters with nothing but a few brushstrokes and a handful of notes: On „Hugo I“, a guitar tremolos a downwardly bent curve of three notes, as a sad piano ostinato mournfully dies down into silence. For thirty more seconds, the music tries to rise from the void, but only succeeds in a feeble repetition of the guitar motive and a throaty trumpet sequence - then, the piece is over. With the palette of motives and colours reduced to semblances as poignant and short as this, hidden relations, recurrences and repetitions could be anywhere, even the puniest of utterances capable of opening up new meanings and attaining metaphorical significance.

In the closing eight minutes, meanwhile, this process is awarded yet another meaning. On „Isaías IV“, the different melodic, sonic and harmonic strands seem to flow together and, after having been consciously restrained and reduced to their absolute essence, finally allowed to flower: Cello and piano are circling, floating and dancing around each other as though caught in a tender embrace; a deep, voluminous bass is taking the notes sprinkled on top through a wide range of emotional shadings from hope to despair, passion to disgust and tenderness to obsession. Meanwhile, the stop-and-go-motion of the beats is released into a freely flowing groove lifting the music up and carrying it weightlessly to its celestial destination. It is here that one is imbued with the sensation of having just undergone a „cinematic“ journey, from the presentation and exposition of the narrative to its conclusion. Instead of mirroring the images, Corona has used them as a foil to create a second, subcutaneous storyline following a logic of its own and working without even knowing about the plot of the movie. This is also why the closing Murcof remix of Chilean 70s band Los Angeles Negros' „Como Quisera Decirte“, with its bittersweet organ play, sultry vocals and rolling drum rolls doesn't feel like a stylistic break – but really like the curtain falling on the action, like the credits appearing on the score and the cinema of your mind emptying until, eventually, only a solitary employee is left, collecting shrink wraps and half-empty coke mugs before turning off the light.

It would certainly be tempting, in a reversal of terminology and on the grounds of this album, to qualify Dueñas's movie as a „soundtrack for the eyes“. But perhaps it would simply suffice to say that for La Sangre Iluminada, the chain of inspiration runs both ways: Listening to the music will make you want to check out the movie and the other way round – how's that for a compliment.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Murcof
Homepage: InFiné Records

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