Murcof - Remembranza

"I can't help think that people like it (in part at least) because they really think that they ought to. And we can't be having that."


Murcof – Remembranza 


I remember reading the reviews of Murcof's previous album (Martes) and running out to buy it with fevered anticipation. Everyone loved it. DJ mags, 50 quid man mags – the whole lot of them. Modern beats mixed with atmospheric and evocative orchestration they said. I played the album a couple of times and then took it down to the cellar along with the rest of the albums that I figure I'll never listen to again. Why? Well, it was pleasant enough, I suppose, but it was also rather bland. It was coffee table music. Playing it would suggest that you were modern (the beats) but also deep and rather clever (the piano and violin). It left me cold.


As, sadly, does the follow up, Remembranza. Very little has changed. Recuerdos, the album's opener, begins with what sounds like the clanking hull of a ship. Static that has escaped from the Raster-Norton label joins the thumps and shivers. Then the heavy piano chords that are Murcof's central motif join in. As usual the piano is given a thump and then the portentous noise that emanates just sits there like a dog that's walked on its hind legs and is now expecting a reward. A song of sorts builds up but ultimately we've been here before. The song, like much of the album, actually makes me think of the Poseidon Adventure. Imagine a ship, overturned in the water and slowly sinking. The creaks, the groans, the echos of Shelley Winters stumbling down a corridor...


OK, maybe not that last bit. Razon, the second track, continues the theme. More groans and clanks and glitchy fx – we're in the radio room on the sinking ship now. Skittish beats and a violin join the piano on this one. The violin, of course, doesn't play a jaunty sea shanty but follows the piano in creating simple, brief, and mournful sounds. In defence of Murcof he is a man who knows exactly the sound he wants to create - I suspect you'd know a Murcof track within a minute or so of hearing it. But the actual sound – it's so laboured. The songs are given neither air nor freedom and despite their apparent simplicity are as over-worked as a late Nabokov sentence. Labradford have been doing this stuff for years and they have been doing it much more successfully. I think people have been seduced by the piano and violin – they think that they are the hallmarks of 'quality'. But the piano and violin are used, ultimately, in a vulgar and dreadfully unsubtle way to create the mood – hearing them (again and again) is like being told exactly what and how to feel. Murcof gives us the death of Little Nell whereas Labradford give us the death of Ilyusha (from The Brothers Karamazov). If you can track down Huxley's Vulgarity in Literature he'll explain the difference in more detail. And, whilst I might have made this distinction before, it's one well worth reusing – there's a lot of vulgarity out there and it usually masquerades in 'sophisticated' guises such as Remembranza.


And so it goes on – all the songs start and end the same, all feature the melancholy piano and the tasteful beats. I should say that the beats themselves are fine. But they merge with the piano in much the same way that oil and water do. And the longer the album goes on the more the simplistic textures grate. I don't normally review albums I dislike but as this album has been praised to the hilt I don't mind giving it a bit of a kicking. Given the album's constituent parts I can understand the reviews but ultimately I can't help think that people like it (in part at least) because they really think that they ought to. And we can't be having that.


Words: Chris Dawson.