Mexican electronic music? Isn't that like German comedy or Norwegian reggae--concepts so ludicrous, they must be fascinatingly awful? But that's not the case with south-of-the-border laptoppers Nortec Collective. Mexican techno enjoyed a spike of media shine in 2001 with an exciting comp titled Nortec Collective: The Tijuana Sessions Vol. 1. On it were three tracks by Terrestre, AKA Fernando Corona and Murcof. Terrestre is Corona's more up-tempo, dance-oriented project, an odd conjugation of warped techno and rancho and norteño rhythms and instrumentation.

Corona departed Nortec Collective three years ago, but he admits he learned much from his involvement there. In fact, he's just completed a Terrestre album, Secondary Inspection (out September 21). "It [has] a certain Murcof air," Corona says, "but with tamboura and banda sinaloense beats. It's more beat-driven, but with dense atmospheres, and quite minimal."

But it's Murcof's 2002 debut disc, Martes, that established Corona's rep, winning widespread praise for its supple fusion of glitchy textures, surgical beats, and luxurious neoclassical timbres. In effect, he makes holy minimalist composers like Gòrecki and P...rt do the clicks'n'cuts jitterbug. Fans of Ekkehard Ehlers and Gas' sublime works will dig Murcof's intricately detailed aural carpets. The new Utopìa finds kindred spirits like Deathprod, Sutekh, and Jan Jelinek remixing tracks from Martes, while including two cuts off the Ulysses 12-inch and two excellent new pieces.

Corona describes his new music as "sounding like something in between Ulysses and Martes, but more complex. I've tried to be very open to accidents when I do music, especially for the new Murcof album."

What lends Murcof's music additional mystique is its creator's home base of Tijuana. I asked Corona about the advantages of and drawbacks to being an electronic musician in Mexico.

"Advantages: Nothing is predictable, anything can happen; since there is no infrastructure for electronic music, it's pretty much like making your own way. [Plus], I don't feel any compromise with the immediate crowd, because there's hardly any for the kind of music I do anyway, so I think more globally or, better yet, I don't try to please anyone but myself. Drawbacks: same as the advantages."

A lot of music from Mexico is relentlessly cheerful. Is Murcof's music a reaction to this?

"Murcof covers one of many necessities I have as a musician, but any art form is obviously a reflection of one's personality... and, as you say, there is already too much cheerful music around. We need more dark and tense music, and that's where I come in, ha ha. I do find enormous joy and pleasure out of listening to this kind of music, especially classical music. I've been listening to Valentin Silvestrov's recent work (which can get rather tense). It just takes you to other places hardly reachable with other styles of music, but I also listen to more upbeat stuff. It's not all gloomy for me, you know." DAVE SEGAL

Murcof plays Sat Aug 21 with Bruno Pronsato, Paul Edwards, and Nora Posch. Mantra Lounge, 210 S Washington St, 9:30 pm-2 am, $10.

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