Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Review: Murmuure - Murmuure

This album, the one-man project of a Frenchman calling himself "One," came out last year in extremely limited releases on CD and tape. It received some rave reviews, but went relatively unnoticed. This may have something to do with the fact that critics totally misrepresented it, and consequently pushed it to the wrong audience.

Let's start with this gag-inducing excerpt from a review by the tastemakers at Aquarius Records: "One moment it sounds like blackened Cocteau Twins, the next like some post rock band covering Abruptum as covered by Alcest." They also refer to it as an "M83 style retro electronic haze." Oof.

What's going on here? The Aquarians (and their ilk) perceive the album as a "dizzying" array of cool influences grafted onto a black metal sound, with the end result being "some sort of twisted abstract avant black metal." Their understanding of the album, and maybe even their enjoyment of it, revolves around the seeming diversity of its style. It impresses them because it enables critical namedropping on an epic scale.

Now let's pull the rug out from under them. This isn't black metal. Murmuure is ritual industrial, no bones about it. It's clear that One really likes black metal and has made an effort to incorporate black metal sounds in the guitars and vocals, but the pervasive influence here is Coil. Indeed, One hasn't made any effort to hide this. The ominous synth lines and crushing bass synth? The keening Japanese flute, the swelling strings, the primal horns? The heavy use of cymbals and other percussion to create textures? This is all very much in line with the sounds Coil explored on How To Destroy Angels and Scatology, and especially on the second half of Horse Rotorvator. Even more important, Murmuure evokes that feel of esoteric paganism. Once you realize that Murmuure is an industrial band, all the seemingly disparate "things that are not black metal" come together. On an industrial album, it's not weird to obscure everything behind waves of warm distortion. It's not weird to cut up guitar parts. It's not weird to use dozens of tracks to sculpt dense, overpowering layers of sound.

So, if this album isn't some bizarre cocktail of black metal and really hip reference points, why should we like it? Because it's insanely creative, well-written music. One has totally taken apart an original guitar improvisation, turning it into a series of painstakingly crafted compositions, but he has preserved the feeling of spontaneity. The album is filled with beautiful moments that rarely if ever repeat themselves, though they always seem to echo something that came before. Murmuure's melodies--if you can call them that--move with a logic that is totally their own, pulling the drums far beyond conventional time and rhythm. This band gives us no "sections" or "riffs," just the immanent process of music coming into being. With its emphasis on the act of creation (or emergence), the album completely transcends formula.

If that isn't enough, One succeeds in channeling the spirit of Coil while remaining wholly his own artist. He has arrived at an equilibrium, a productive dialogue with the voices of Balance and Christopherson. With these powerful allies, he has quite literally created a potent work of magick.

I hope this guy releases more music. For now, check out his cool website or download his shit at his bandcamp. There may still be copies of the CD available through Paradigms Recordings, but I dunno.

A footnote: Whether intentionally or no, this album really reminds me of "new music" and jazz ensembles on the ECM label. Those who dig Murmuure are advised to check out David Torn's Prezens. Very different atmospheres, but they're both dark and deep, and they both focus on structured and edited free improvisation.

Buy this album on Amazon


  1. Good stuff - I too read the AQ review of Murmuure and also put off by the gushing 'Best blackmetals EVAH' and 'sounds like cool hipster bands you SHOULD like'. Probably one of the reasons I gave up reading the list. I was never that much into Coil - though one of most amazing things I've experienced live - but I'll give this another spin.

  2. lol never read anything aquarius records says

  3. @Steve: Thanks man! And yeah, I hate the "sounds like bands you SHOULD like" approach to music criticism. Tells you virtually nothing about why the music is good or important. Envious that you got to see Coil live before they departed this plane. Definitely do throw this on again, it's certainly not a "Coil clone" or anything of the sort.

  4. AQ can be pretty overwhelming with the RIYL, but I wish a had a local record store that good.