Over the course of his past couple releases, Fernando Corona has morphed from a strings and beats style electronic musician (Remembranza) into a sound sculptor that has pushed inot a territory that toes the line between doom, drone, and ambient music (Cosmos). Of course, my explanations above are somewhat watered-down, and Corona has always shown himself to be a bit outside what other contemporary musicians are doing while at the same time showing a real willingness to redraw his own boundaries. That progression continues with The Versailles Sessions, and while it isn't being labeled as his true follow-up album to Cosmos, it nonetheless finds him creating something completely unique.
Commissioned for an annual festival of light, water, and sound in France (the Les Grandes Eaux Nocturnes), The Versailles Sessions is six compositions that are derived from recordings of 17th century baroque instruments including harpsichord, viola da gamba, flute, violin, and voices. Of course, Corona doesn't leave much untouched, and in his hands these sounds turn into something that is at times abstract and eerie and at others monolithic and monstrous. In other words, it's freaking massive, and completely at odds with what one might expect from "baroque" music.
"Welcome To Versailles" opens with ominous rumbles and clunks that sound like a small orchestra being smashed into a tiny ball and then dropped down a missile silo. Shattered harpsichord notes flail like horror movie stabs into sustained droning flute notes, backwards plucks of violin, and thuds that threaten to open up a black hole. "Louis XIV's Demons" follows and twists shivering viola melodies into a frigid silence as broken harpsichord notes ring out like SOS calls gone awry. It's one of those alien-sounding tracks that I simply can't quit listening to, playing with silence as much as it does sound itself.
Just about every track on the release has a couple of these WTF moments, and that's part of the joy of listening to the album. "Death Of A Forest" finds a solo soprano voice soaring over wheezing filtered strings that all mash together into huge slabs of reverberating sound, while "Spring In The Artificial Gardens" again launches into deep space with creepy overlaps of massive strings as eruptions of harpsichord sound harshly digital and almost violent. At the rate Corona is going, he's going to be challenging doom artists for sheer heaviness of sound, but I for one don't mind. Serious deep headphone (or loud stereo) listening, this is certainly no toss-off.