Label: Leaf Link: http://www.myspace.com/murcof Back in the heady days of the early noughties (that will never sound right), I used to DJ a bit, playing downtempo music in various pubs and bars on a Sunday night. For a couple of years I almost exclusively listened to folk, soul, hip hop and electronica, forever seeking out new tunes to dazzle the masses, or at least the handful of people that showed up. And in those days, Murcof was a name to drop, a signifier of classy, highbrow, glitchy, electronic music. When the DJ gigs ended, I turned back to my first love which I had increasingly missed – alternative rock with loud, distorted guitars – and, while I would still like to consider myself a person with broad tastes in music (don’t we all), my appetite for chilling out was dulled considerably. Consequently I didn’t have a clue what Murcof had been up to recently and was intrigued to find out. By the sounds of things, Murcof has become as bored as me of the largely stagnant electronica scene. The Versailles Sessions, a six-track EP, sounds like a clearing of breath, an exercise or experiment which may or not be a step towards a new direction, but is at least a step away from the old. As the title suggests, the tracks are largely composed of sparse sampled Baroque instrumentation and vocals, but with the occasional jarring piece of synthesised noodling (as if Vangelis had wandered into a recital whilst they were tuning up). There is no percussion; instead everything is drenched in reverb, giving it an eerie, oppressive quality that occupies a similar territory to the soundtracks to The Shining and There Will Be Blood. As it stands, I would say that it is a very limited success. It’s certainly not a record I would recommend listening on your iPod while commuting to work (which, sadly, is the way I listen to most music these days) – if anything, it is one to listen to loudly on an expensive stereo … while sitting comfortably in your study … reading Umberto Eco and sipping a fine cognac. The pleasures it affords are largely a product of the quality of the performances sampled, and of the stark beauty of a perfectly recorded pluck, plink or strum (like Cornelius, Murcof appreciates the value of the spaces between sounds, and that less can sometimes be so much more). It is not a record that I am likely to listen to often (I haven’t got a expensive stereo, I’m all out of fine cognac … you get the idea). But at least it has piqued my curiosity again – I am intrigued as to what Murcof is going to do next.