El Mariachi! Areba, andale andale! And so on. Mexico is home to a great deal of stereotypes and archetypes: the mariachi band serenading the senorita at dinner; the be-sombrero'd locals tending fields; the Zapatista-tached rebels; Speedy Gonzales. None of these apply to Murcof though - in fact, there's little that can be traced back to a Mexican lineage at all. You want post-rock mariachi though, you go to Calexico; you want sparse, slightly otherworldy electronica you take a trip to Tijuana.
For such is the hometown of Fernando Corona: home of Corona beer (I presume, I just made it up), Tijuana Brass and according to Krusty the clown, the funnest place on earth. Not that you'd know it from the stark, yet beguiling sounds of Remembranza, Corona's last album as Murcof. Formerly a member of the Nortec Collective, Murcof started as a solo concern five years ago, attempting to bridge (one of) the gap(s) between contemporary electronica and contemporary classical. Hence the minimalist approach taken from those emplying a serialist ethic; the glitchy electronic noise taken from those approaching machines with tools in order to make noise; the haunting string sections where the silence is just as important as the sound; the dull, clipped beat which seems to continue throughout the entire album.
I really enjoy listening to Murcof's album, although I couldn't tell you why for a minute. I think it holds the record for being in my 'to review' pile the longest of any album ever, mostly because I just can't sum it up in words. I certainly couldn't pin down what it is I enjoy listening to, and I couldn't pick out favourite tracks, as each blends seamlessly into each other, with, as I said, apparently the same beat. In an increasingly crowded marketplace, Murcof has managed to produce an immediately placeable sound, and although you wouldn't place that sound in Tijuana, you'd certainly ascribe it to Murcof.
You can visit Murcof's website and get more songs on MySpace. Check out the video for Rostro for a great example of contextualising a seemingly abstract motif. The beat is soporific when the protagonist wakes up, but the same beat fits in perfectly with both the surrealist touches and the wistful, poignant, chicken-mask moments. All on a low, low budget!
Murcof - Rostro (video)
Murcof - Rostro (audio)
Murcof - Recuerdos (audio)
The Nortec Collective, of which Murcof was a part, seems to simply be a loose-knit bunch of likeminded souls in Tijuana: mixing samples of more traditional Mexican music with hard-edged beats, then doing clever things with them (from what I understand). Goes to show, at the very least, that Mexico is certainly not as one-dimensional as casual observers may believe. Download some tracks from the website, or see Motel de Moka's Nortec selection.
Bonus track: Rodrigo y Gabriela aren't quite the stick-in-Mexico kind of characters like Corona - they're based in Dublin right now, where they're showcasing their frankly frightening brand of virtuoso (is this the right word when there's two of them?) Spanish guitar playing. This a great cover/medley, they're so hot right now.
Rodrigo y Gabriela - One/Take Five
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Tags: Mexico; World Cup; Murcof; Nortec; Rodrigo y Gabriela;
CIA Factbook: Mexico